Sen. Daniel Inouye (D)
Elected: 1962, term expires 2010, 8th term.
Born: Sept. 7, 1924, Honolulu .
Education: U. of HI, B.A. 1950, George Washington U., J.D. 1952.
Religion: United Methodist.
Family: Married (Irene Hirano); 1 child.
Military career: Army, 1943–47 (WWII).
Elected office: HI House of Reps., 1954–58; HI Senate, 1958–59; U.S. House of Reps., 1959–62.
Professional Career: Honolulu dpty. public prosecutor, 1953–54.
The largest figure in Hawaii’s public life remains Democrat Daniel Inouye, the state’s senior senator who has held various elective offices since before Hawaii attained statehood in 1959. The son of Japanese immigrants, Inouye (in-NO-ay) grew up in Honolulu. His ambition was to become a surgeon. At age 17, he was teaching a first aid course when Pearl Harbor was attacked. He tended the wounded for a week, and then went on to serve in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in France and Italy, eventually earning 15 medals and citations. Just as the war was ending, he lost his right arm in combat. Recovering in a Michigan veterans’ hospital, he asked a fellow veteran from Kansas, whose right arm had been shattered, what his plans were. The soldier said he planned to go to law school, run for the state legislature, and eventually get elected to Congress. He was Bob Dole, who was also wounded in Italy, exactly one week before Inouye, and who went on to become a senator and the Republican nominee for president in 1996. Inouye and Dole served together for two years in the House and for 28 years in the Senate. Inouye graduated from the University of Hawaii and George Washington University Law School, then became a leader of a group of young veterans who took over Hawaii’s creaking Democratic Party. He was elected to the territorial Legislature in 1954, the U.S. House in 1959, and the U.S. Senate in 1962. Inouye is the third-most-senior member of the Senate, after Democrats Robert Byrd of West Virginia and Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts. He was a tenacious member of the Senate Watergate Committee in 1973-74 and the first chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee in 1976. In 2000, he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroism in World War II.
|Daniel Inouye (D)||313,629||(76%)||($1,768,886)|
|Cam Cavasso (R)||87,172||(21%)||($57,123)|
|Daniel Inouye (D)||157,367||(94%)|
|Brian Evans (D)||8,051||(5%)|
Prior Winning Percentages: 1998 (79%), 1992 (57%), 1986 (74%), 1980 (78%), 1974 (83%), 1968 (83%), 1962 (69%), 1960 House (74%), 1959 House (68%)
In 2009, Inouye rose to the chairmanship of the powerful Appropriations Committee. He replaced the chronically ill Byrd, who was pressed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to step down from the demanding job after the 2008 election. Byrd called Inouye a friend and “genuine American hero,” and predicted he would be a “skillful and fair” replacement. Democratic Rep. Neal Abercrombie of Hawaii called it “a remarkable story” for their small state: Inouye took over the post just as native-son Barack Obama became the new president. Inouye had an unusually close working relationship with former Republican Appropriations Chairman Ted Stevens of Alaska, who lost re-election in 2008 after being convicted of corruption-related charges. Inouye was a character witness at Stevens’s October 2008 trial. The two men had served together since the 1960s representing the two states most recently admitted to the Union and geographically the most distant from other states. They referred to each other as “brother.”
Inouye said that he would not alter the committee’s handling of lawmakers’ pet projects, in spite of recent controversies over congressional earmarks. He has long used his seat on Appropriations to fund projects he finds worthy, from his alma mater of George Washington University to Native Hawaiian education. From 1998 to 2003, he steered $1.4 billion to military projects in Hawaii, which occupies a forward geographical position in the country’s national defense. Among them were an Army high-tech intelligence center, the Maui Space Surveillance System, and the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai. He generally is a Pentagon booster. In 2008, his defense spending bill gave nearly full funding to the Bush administration’s requests for new combat systems, national missile defense, and shipbuilding.
Inouye chaired the Indian Affairs Committee from 1989-94 and again in 2001-03. He saw many analogies between the condition of mainland American Indians and Native Hawaiians, and generally erred on the side of Native Americans in disputes with the federal government. In 2006, he removed from a lobbying regulation bill a provision that would require Indian tribes to report contributions to the Federal Election Commission. He also sponsored a measure, defeated 6-6, to give tribes the right to appeal a rejection by the states of their bids for casinos. At one point, he refused contact with companies that hired disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who was accused of swindling tribes. “I took it personally. He was ripping off Indians,” Inouye told The Washington Post. He was also a co-sponsor of the 1993 bill in which the United States apologized for overthrowing the Hawaiian monarchy. In 2000, he secured funding for Native Hawaiians purchasing property in the Home Lands, the 200,000 acres set aside in 1920 for a permanent homeland for Native Hawaiians. On the heated issue of Native Hawaiian sovereignty, some activists consider him lukewarm, especially in comparison to the junior senator from Hawaii, Daniel Akaka, who has pushed the legislation for years.
On the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, which Inouye chaired in the last Congress (2007-08), he has been deeply involved in communications issues and tends to favor government regulation over markets. He and Stevens co-sponsored a 2005 bill that passed the Senate facilitating the transition from analog broadcasting, and since then he has prodded regulators and the industry to be prepared for the likely confusion, especially among the 20 million American households continuing to rely on over-the-air signals. He was not enthusiastic about Stevens’s far-ranging rewrite of the 1996 telecommunications act, and when he took over the chairmanship in 2007, he indicated that he was not interested in such sweeping legislation. Instead he pushed more-modest measures, like one setting criteria for Commerce Department grants to strengthen emergency communications, and a 2008 bill to crack down on online predators. Also that year, Congress passed Inouye’s Broadband Data Improvement Act, aimed at identifying areas of the nation that have fallen behind in high-speed Internet access. He opposed a permanent ban on Internet taxes because “we don’t know what the future holds.”
Over the years, Inouye has taken more-moderate positions on some issues than most Democrats. He was one of the Gang of 14 senators who pledged in 2005 not to filibuster judicial nominees except in extraordinary circumstances. But he voted against the Iraq war resolution in 2002, and was among the 12 Democrats who voted in 2006 to withdraw all combat troops from Iraq by July 2007. Inouye spoke out against the confirmation of Alberto Gonzales as U.S. attorney general in 2005, saying, “I am appalled that he has professed only a ‘vague knowledge’ of the racial and ethnic disparities in the imposition of the death penalty in federal cases.”
Inouye sponsored a 2006 law granting $38 million to research and restore sites where Japanese-Americans were interned during World War II, and in 2007, he sponsored a bill to investigate the cases of people of Japanese origin in Latin America who were deported from countries there and sent to the United States, evidently to be exchanged for American prisoners of war held by Japan. But he objected to House-passed legislation that year to call on Japan to apologize for its use of sex slaves during the war. Six Japanese prime ministers already had apologized, he said, while noting the U.S. government’s improper war-time internment of Japanese-Americans.
Inouye is part of the powerful faction of Hawaii’s Democratic Party that held the governorship from 1962 to 2002. In 2002, he vigorously supported Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono in her nearly successful attempt to extend the 40-year string. In early 2007, Inouye endorsed Hillary Rodham Clinton for president, saying native-son Barack Obama needed more experience. He was forced to issue an apology after suggesting during the primaries that Obama attended an elitist high school in Hawaii. “Shame on Danny for trying to pull that stunt,” Obama told a local interviewer. “I went to Punahou [School] on a scholarship.” Following the death of his wife Margaret in 2006, Inouye in 2008 married Irene Hirano, the president of the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles.
He has been re-elected by wide margins. He seems certain not to face much competition when his seat comes up in 2010. Abercrombie, when asked whether Inouye would retire, said, “May that day not come for many years. Someone will take his position, but not his place.”