The drama of the Democratic primary to succeed the late Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) has intensified, with Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) questioning whether the senator's deathbed request that Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) be chosen to succeed him was legitimate.
After Inouye's death in 2012, Abercrombie appointed his lieutenant governor at the time, Brian Schatz (D), to serve out the remainder of the senator's term. Inouye, who was revered in the state, had reportedly requested in a letter from his deathbed that Abercrombie appoint Hanabusa instead.
Abercrombie told The Los Angeles Times in an interview published Friday that he wasn't sure Inouye's letter was authentic.
"I received that letter, ostensibly coming from Sen. Inouye himself, a half an hour before he died in Washington, D.C. Literally," Abercrombie said. "Whether or not this could be construed as Sen. Inouye's dying wish -- let me put it this way -- is problematic."
A Hanabusa spokesman rebutted Abercrombie's claims and said Inouye had dictated the letter.
"Obviously he didn't sit at the computer and type it up, but he dictated the contents of that letter in the week leading up" to his death, Peter Boylan, communications director for Hanabusa's campaign and Inouye's deputy chief of staff at the time, told the LA Times.
The letter, which was marked "personal," was released to the media. Abercrombie told the Times its release led him to question whether it was manufactured to pressure him to appoint Hanabusa.
"I don't argue a bit that represented his sentiments," Abercrombie said. "I say with equal certainty that I also know he admonished me to do what I thought was best for the people of Hawaii."
President Barack Obama endorsed Schatz in March, lending national attention to the Aug. 9 Democratic primary, which cuts across racial, ethnic, generational and political vectors in a strongly Democratic state.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story attributed the interview to the Associated Press instead of the Los Angeles Times.