HONOLULU — State Senate President Shan Tsutsui became Hawaii’s new lieutenant governor Thursday, replacing newly sworn-in U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie said Tsutsui will have official offices on Maui and in Honolulu. He said this adheres to his desire to make state government less Oahu-centric and allows Tsutsui to work from his home island.
“I just look at this as an opportunity. I don’t think I would have predicted this. I don’t think this is something that even a few weeks ago that someday I would become lieutenant governor and take on those roles and responsibilities,” Tsutsui said at a news conference.
As Senate president, the 41-year-old Democrat was first in line for the job when Abercrombie appointed Schatz to fill the vacancy created by the death of Sen. Daniel Inouye.
He said he was initially planning to turn down the position until he met with Abercrombie, discussed his role and talked things over with his family and colleagues.
The establishment of a Maui office was an important factor, he said.
“It sends a message, like the governor had said, that all the neighbor islands, wherever you live, need to feel connected to government,” Tsutsui said.
He said he knows it can be hard for people who aren’t on Oahu to connect with elected officials in Honolulu. He also aims to serve as a bridge between lawmakers and the Abercrombie administration.
Asked whether he has ambitions to succeed Abercrombie as governor, Tsutsui said he wants to focus on working with the governor and isn’t thinking about that now.
“In time I’ll make that decision,” he said.
Tsutsui was the first Senate president from Maui, as well as the youngest. He was first elected to the Senate in 2002, representing Kahului and Wailuku.