US Sen. Brian Schatz predicts big turnout for Democratic preference poll

Hawaii Democrats will get to pick which presidential candidate they want to represent their party on Saturday, when the Democratic preference poll will happen across the state. U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz appeared on Wake Up 2day to give his thoughts on what he anticipates will be a big turnout.

Schatz likens it to the Republicans’ huge turnout during their caucus, though the turnout, he fears, may be tempered by the four-day weekend (Good Friday, Kuhio Day), plus the fact that it’s at 1 p.m. – the middle of the day on a Saturday.

“It’ll be good for the party, regardless of the result,” he says.

Nationally, he says the race is so close this year that “we matter. Hawaii is significant in this nominating process. It’s great for the Democratic party.”

The senator says he’s supporting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “There’s been nobody in a generation just so prepared for the Presidency. In a dangerous and complicated world, and with D.C. torn asunder with partisanship, you need someone very experienced and capable – that is Secretary Clinton.”

He speculates on GOP candidate Donald Trump’s impact on the race: “This is not a joke. I noticed websites have moved it from the entertainment to the politics sections over the last few months. People are seeing we have a front-runner who is bigoted and reckless with language, and that has consequences. The differences bet Democrats and Republicans becomes more stark. This is real; it’s near choosing time.”

To the issue of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, and the GOP fight to let the next president pick a Supreme Court Justice, Sen. Schatz doesn’t agree.

“A president gets four years. His duties extend to the last day, no exception. There’s never been an instance where a nominee hasn’t gotten a hearing. It takes about 100 days and we have more than 300 days [left in Obama’s term]. Some Republicans refuse to meet with him and yet say they don’t want the hearing. I think they’re afraid they will like him. He’s a smart guy. It’s hard to poke holes in his resume and preparations for the job.”

The senator also updated us on the federal assistance for laid off sugar workers on Maui. The U.S. Labor Department approved federal aid for Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar Company for plantation workers that will be without jobs soon.

“Nearly 700 people are eligible for trade adjustment assistance. We worked with the Department of Labor to make sure these monies come in. It’ll let people go to college and get retrained. Their books, tuition, and other related items will be paid for. Once U.I. runs out, you get another two years of that same amount and most of the people will be collecting about $2,000,” he explains. It’s very sad that it’s the end of and era, but at least this softens the blow.”

Sen. Schatz says he just got confirmation from the U.S. Labor Department on Thursday that the money is coming in what is likely a matter of weeks.

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