03/19/2014 06:00 am ET Updated Mar 19, 2014

Progressives Pick Sides In Hawaii's Democratic Senate Race

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One of America's more aggressive progressive organizations is wading into Hawaii's Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, throwing its weight behind the appointed incumbent, Sen. Brian Schatz.

Schatz was named to replace the revered Sen. Daniel Inouye (D) in December 2012 by Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D), despite a deathbed wish from Inouye that Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D) be selected. Hanabusa and Schatz are now locked in a tight contest to win the Aug. 9 primary.

While both candidates can tout their liberal bona fides, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) is supporting Schatz.

Once named to the Senate, Schatz, 41, rushed quickly to champion gay rights, expanding Social Security and curbing climate change. His Social Security advocacy apparently swayed PCCC, which has its own campaign to strengthen the social safety net.

"Today, we are proud to announce our endorsement of U.S. Senator Brian Schatz for re-election in Hawaii," PCCC's Stephanie Taylor said in an email on Wednesday. "Social Security is a defining issue in this race. Brian Schatz was one of the first senators to endorse expanding Social Security benefits."

Although Hanabusa, 62, has signed letters asking President Barack Obama to oppose cuts to Social Security, PCCC noted that she did not sign a letter pledging to vote against such cuts.

PCCC plans to follow up the endorsement with training sessions in Hawaii, where the group estimates it has more than 4,000 members.

Schatz has also landed endorsements from several other progressive groups, including Democracy for America and MoveOn.org. Hanabusa has the backing of Inouye's widow, as well as former Sen. Daniel Akaka (D).



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