Senator Brian Schatz
Carolyn Kaster—AP
March 31, 2014 4:53 PM EDT

President Barack Obama endorsed incumbent Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz on Monday, throwing his hand in a primary race that has fiercely divided Democrats in his home state.

“Senator Schatz is protecting Hawaii’s values and fighting every day on behalf of middle-class families,” Obama said in a statement, according to Fox News. “There is no question that Senator Schatz is the right choice to continue delivering for Hawaii.”

Schatz is facing Representative Colleen Hanabusa in a primary preceding a general election to fill the former seat of Senator Daniel Inouye, who died in 2012. The contest has split the party — many of Inouye’s supporters are backing Hanabusa, while younger voters and the Democratic establishment are pulling for Schatz.

Inouye himself wanted Hanabusa to replace him, according to the Washington Post. Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie, however, appointed then lieutenant governor Schatz to fill Inouye’s seat after the Senator’s death.

Obama’s endorsement, first reported by the Huffington Post, should hold weight in Hawaii. Obama’s approval rating there was 61.3% as of January, among his highest in the country.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid also endorsed Schatz on Monday. “Brian has proven himself a champion for working families in Hawaii,” Reid said in a statement. “He has been a leader in efforts to develop clean-energy jobs and reduce the impact of climate change, and a strong advocate for ensuring a fair shot for all Americans.”

[Fox News]

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