Welcome to Capitol Watch. Governor-Elect Neil Abercrombie is in transition mode, there’s new leadership at the Legislature and other government branches, and Civil Beat is reporting on all of it.

4:18 p.m. The New Gov’s PR Team: Levinson, Au, Dela Cruz

The governor-elect today announced three key communications positions in his governor’s office: Communications Director Josh Levinson, Deputy Communications Director Laurie Au and Press Secretary Donalyn Dela Cruz.

4:14 p.m. Abercrombie’s Transition

In naming four Cabinet appointees, Neil Abercrombie showed two of his most pronounced qualities: the confidence with which he approaches government while simultaneously being able to joke about it.

On the latter point: Asked about Clayton Hee as a possible appointee, Abercrombie said the state senator’s name had been mentioned to him so many times “that he’s probably destroyed any chance he had” to be hired.

He was joking about Hee, an old colleague from his legislative days. But he made clear that all candidates, even state senators, “have to compete with everybody else.”

On the former point, Abercrombie suggested he was comfortable delegating major tasks to others such as deputy chief of staff Andrew Aoki.

Bill Kaneko, for example, handles all the screening of candidates, while various groups and individuals are asked about their views on the candidates. The vetting then ends up in Abercrombie’s inbox.

“This a good way to do things,” Abercrombie said. “It leaves me totally free to get my own reactions underway. And it’s a happy thing — to have someone talk to you and say they never believed they would be in front of you (for a job), that politics would get in way. But no one turned out to have an inside track. It was on the basis of merit.”

2:15 p.m. Aila Tagged to Lead DLNR

Neil Abercrombie has named William Aila, Jr., to run the state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources. Aila, 52, has worked at DLNR for more than 23 years in the Division of Boating and Ocean Resources.

The governor-elect also selected banker Richard Lim, 59, to run the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism; Jodie Maesaka-Hirata, 44, a prison warden, to run Public Safety; Alapaki Nahalea, 42, with a background in charter schools, to take over Hawaiian Homelands; and Bobby Hall, 57, a DHHL employee who will be Nahalea’s deputy director.

The four director appointments require Senate confirmation. Abercrombie said his transition team has received over 3,500 résumés.

1:45 p.m. Does Say Have The Votes?

Closure on the lingering question of who will lead the state House may be near — maybe even this week.

Some four weeks after the general election, Calvin Say appears to have persuaded one more representative to vote for him as speaker, which would give him 25 of the minimum 26 votes he needs. The vote likely comes from Sylva Luke‘s bloc of 16.

But that still leaves Say one vote short, and Luke’s other supporters as well as three independents who favor a compromise candidate seem committed to a change in leadership. How would Say reward his converts? And just how difficult would they find it to work with their former comrades should they jump ship?

11:39 a.m. Senate Takes Up Pasha Complaint

The Senate Committee on Commerce and Consumer Protection will hold a hearing Thursday morning at the Capitol to consider how a competitor in the interisland shipping business will affect neighbor islands.

The Public Utilities Commission‘s decision late this year to allow Pasha Hawaii Transport Lines permission to carry cargo in an interim basis has upset Young Brothers, which argues Pasha will serve only the most lucrative ports. The PUC says it’s all about a transportation alternative for residents and businesses, but Young Brothers warns that service to neighbor islands may actually be hampered.

The Commerce and Consumer Protection committee is chaired by Rosalyn Baker of Maui and includes Josh Green of the Big Island.

9:43 a.m. Lingle’s Last Business, Abercrombie’s Latest

In her remaining week as Hawaii governor, Linda Lingle will hold internal meetings today and Tuesday, deliver remarks at the North Shore Chamber of Commerce’s annual holiday party on Wednesday at Turtle Bay, attend the U.S. Army-Pacific’s holiday reception hosted by Lt. General and Mrs. Benjamin R. Mixon on Thursday, light a Hanukkah menorah in Waikiki (also on Thursday) and participate in a groundbreaking ceremony for a new ferry terminal and pier improvements at Maalaea Small Boat Harbor on Maui Friday.

Lingle’s successor, Neil Abercrombie, will be making several appointments to his first Cabinet, possibily as early as today. The names of legislators Russell Kokubun, Dwight Takamine and Brian Taniguchi have surfaced as possible picks, as well as former lawmaker Mike Magaoay.

By this time eight years ago, Lingle had named Georgina Kawamura to lead budget and finance and would soon select Mark Bennett as attorney general. Abercrombie will be sworn in Monday, Dec. 6, at noon.

Catch up on our previous coverage:

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