Sylvia Luke wants his job, Roy Takumi has offered himself as a compromise candidate and the names of at least two other legislators are in the mix. Can House Speaker Calvin Say hold on to his job?
Within days of the Nov. 2 election, and with Senate President Colleen Hanabusa already packing for her new job in Washington, D.C., the 25-member state Senate initiated a wholesale restructuring of its leadership.
By late November Senate committee assignments had been completed and offices assigned.
The 24 Democrats and one Republican are already looking ahead to a new governor’s administration that assumes office Dec. 6 and to a new legislative session that begins Jan. 19.
In the state House, however, it’s a very different picture.
Because of a stalemate over who should be speaker, leadership positions and committee assignments remain as they have over the past two years.
Four freshmen lawmakers — Democrats Ty Cullen, Mark Hashem, Dee Morikawa and Linda Ichiyama — are sharing a single office, telephone and fax line in Room 27 on the chamber level in the Capitol basement. (At least it’s close to the snack bar and parking garage.)
Work continues on drafting future legislation, holding meetings and helping constituents, of course, but the 43 Democrats are split over the fate of House Speaker Calvin Say. That affects staff hiring, parking, office space and possibly even some legislation.
Say, who has been speaker since 1999, has 24 of the 26 votes needed to be speaker in the 51-member House. Sylvia Luke, a former vice speaker and judiciary chairwoman, has 16 votes. Cindy Evans, the majority floor leader, and Jessica Wooley support Roy Takumi, the education committee chairman who has not sided with either Say or Luke.
Contrast that with the House’s eight Republicans, who swiftly named Gene Ward to replace minority leader Lynn Finnegan. The GOP caucus also identified other leaders — including naming its three freshmen party whips (although George Fontaine, Aaron Johanson and Gil Riviere are also sharing an office, phone and fax until the dust settles).
A House Divided
Calvin Say is supported by the following legislators: Henry Aquino, Karen Awana, Rida Cabanilla, Jerry Chang, Pono Chong, Isaac Choy, Ty Cullen, Sharon Har, Mark Hashem, Bob Herkes, Ken Ito, Marilyn Lee, Joey Manahan, Angus McKelvey, John Mizuno, Marcus Oshiro, Blake Oshiro, Karl Rhoads, Joe Souki, Jimmy Tokioka, Clift Tsuji, Ryan Yamane and Kyle Yamashita.
Sylvia Luke has the support of Della Au Belatti, Tom Brower, Mele Carroll, Denny Coffman, Faye Hanohano, Linda Ichiyama, Gil Keith-Agaran, Chris Lee, Dee Morikawa, Mina Morita, Mark Nakashima, Scott Nishimoto, Scott Saiki, Maile Shimabukuro and Mark Takai.
In some ways, the struggle over the speakership is generational. Say is 58, Luke is 42 and Takumi is 57.
While there are notable exceptions, Say’s supporters tend to skew older and are veteran legislators, like Souki (a speaker emeritus), Herkes and Marilyn Lee. Luke’s tend to be younger and newer to office, like Nishimoto, Uchiyama and Chris Lee.
Two possible compromise candidates — Marcus Oshiro and Blake Oshiro — are 51 and 40, respectively. Neither wants the job, but both are respected leaders. Marcus Oshiro values loyalty and relishes running the powerful finance committee, while Blake Oshiro, the House majority leader, is too closely associated by some with Hawaii civil unions.
Another split is over ideology.
Say’s supporters tend to favor a familiar way of doing business and relying on established relationships and protocol. Luke’s supporters include many who have long pressed for shaking up the legislative system and have felt left out of the major decision making.
Takumi is idealistic and oriented toward working collaboratively. He may not have the horse-trading skills that Say has acquired over the years, nor Luke’s sense of urgency to enact progressive change.
Some state representatives had hoped Democrats would settle their differences by Thanksgiving, but that seems a slim possibility.
The next optimum chance would be before the Dec. 6 inauguration of Neil Abercrombie and Brian Schatz. Sure would be nice to have leadership questions hammered out before all the leaders gather at Iolani Palace.
Speaker Say — who did not respond to Civil Beat’s request for an interview — is said to be waiting until two members come his way to give him the 26 votes. If need be, that could take until opening day.
But those familiar with the process say Say has little in the way of new incentives — namely, leadership positions and chairmanships — to give away. (One prize: the vice speakership vacated by Mike Magaoay, who lost a Senate bid this year.)
But others are getting restless and are sensitive to public perceptions that the House is in disorder. If Takumi can get Luke’s 16 supporters as well as Wooley and Evans, he would only need seven Say supporters to jump ship.
If some of the 43 Democrats get hired by the Abercrombie administration or decide to leave politics and return to the private sector — both scenarios are possible — the vote gathering will be further complicated.
There are also vacations on the horizon for many lawmakers, though a legislator’s support could come from just a phone call or e-mail, not necessarily a signed statement.
Stay Up To Date On The Coronavirus And Other Hawaii Issues