Inouye, who died Monday at age 88, will be remembered for his devotion to his home state of Hawaii. His Senate desk was draped in black and adorned with white roses and a Hawaiian necklace in remembrance on Tuesday.
On that issue, Hirono differs from her predecessors. An aide said the senator-elect has been clear in her opposition to drilling in the ANWR. She was endorsed during her campaign by several environmental groups, including the League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club.
“Representative Hirono understands that investments in a clean energy future are investments in well-paying, stable jobs for Hawaiians for generations to come,” LCV President Gene Karpinski said in a May endorsement.
Hirono, who was given a seat on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is not expected to be a crossover vote to the Republican side on energy issues, as can often be the case with fellow Democratic Sens. Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana and Joe Manchin III of West Virginia.
Nonetheless, Begich hopes to have the chance to influence Hirono on energy issues and other matters of interest to Alaskans.
“I think there has always been this relationship with Hawaii, not only on energy issues, but Alaska Native and Hawaiian issues,” Begich said last week. “I think so, and I hope so. She’s already shown some of that on the House side, working with Congressman Young, so I think that that will carry over here.”
Hirono has had such a strong relationship with Rep. Don Young that the Alaska Republican actually recorded a campaign Web ad backing her during the Senate primary, although he endorsed the GOP candidate in the general election. During the comedic ad, Hirono kept Young from insulting House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as Young offered praise for Hirono’s work for the two states.
“Here’s what’s important, Hawaii: If you’re looking for a United States senator who doesn’t just talk about bipartisanship but actually knows how to work with both Republicans and Democrats to get things done — Mazie Hirono will be that senator,” Young says in the ad. Alaskan senators have typically backed efforts by their counterparts from the Aloha State to secure federal recognition for the Native Hawaiian population similar to that already enjoyed by Native Americans and Alaska Natives. Akaka and Inouye each served as the top Democrat on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.
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