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Like it or not, influence in Congress (and the Senate in particular) is based on seniority. The other main candidate, Hanabusa, is in her sixties and is unlikely to serve more than a term or two before retiring. It probably makes more sense to appoint the younger guy in this situation, in hopes that he can win reelection and build up seniority. This is especially important in small states like Hawaii--states with a small Congressional delegation that only gains influence if its members build up seniority on key committees.
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