HONOLULU: Fresh off a primary election, U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz said he wants to make clean energy the same priority in Washington as it is in his native Hawaii.
"It's the challenge of our generation," Schatz told The Associated Press following an easy victory in Hawaii's Democratic primary on Saturday. "It's an area where American leadership is essential and we've made a lot of progress over the last two years."
Schatz was part of a delegation of 10 Democratic U.S. senators that went to Paris to show their support for the 2015 climate talks and to stress the urgency of the issue.
Some Republican lawmakers are skeptical of whether global warming is real or whether proposed remedies would work.
While in Washington Schatz has introduced legislation on reducing the use of fossil fuels and Hawaii leads the nation in its initiatives to become completely energy independent by 2045.
Schatz advanced to meet Republican John Carroll in the November general election, defeating four challengers in his bid for his first full term in office.
Schatz says his win in the Hawaii primary validates all the hard work he has done on behalf of the state, and he looks forward to continuing a robust campaign into the general election.
If he wins the election in November, Schatz says he will continue to focus on combatting global warming by making the United States a global leader on clean energy.
Schatz had an unlikely road to the Senate. When Hawaii's beloved Sen. Daniel Inouye died in December 2012, it was left to then-Gov. Neil Abercrombie to fill the seat. Inouye's dying wish was to have then-U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa fill the seat, but Abercrombie instead chose Schatz, his lieutenant governor.
Two years later, Hanabusa challenged Schatz but lost in a special election to fill the last two years of Inouye's unexpired term.
Other Democratic candidates in Saturday's race included Makani Christensen, Tutz Honeychurch, Artuto Reyes and Miles Shiratori. The Republican candidates included Carroll, Karla Gottschalk, Eddie Pirkowski and John Roco.
Attempts to reach Carroll weren't immediately successful.
Joao Santos, 53, a Democrat who has lived in Honolulu for 23 years, voted at Kawananakoa Middle School on Saturday and said he has known Schatz for a number of years and feels his re-election is certain. Santos sees infrastructure and homelessness as major local issues that need to be addressed.
"They are critical issues for our economy," said Santos, an insurance agent. "Our number one industry, tourism, homelessness is having a big effect on that."
Maile Chow, 39, a Democrat who also lives in Honolulu and voted at Kawananakoa Middle School, said that she, too, likes Schatz for the Senate.
"I like his young, youthful approach to things and want to see what he can continue to do in the future," she said.
Schatz serves on the Appropriations; Commerce, Science and Transportation; and Indian Affairs committees. He also serves on the Select Committee on Ethics.
Schatz, who was raised in Hawaii, was a member of the state House from 1998 to 2006. He is married and has two children.