Three of Gov. David Ige’s nominations for cabinet positions are in trouble on the eve of the 2019 legislative session, according to interviews with senators.

Four senators told Civil Beat that Jobie Masagatani lacks enough votes to be confirmed for another term as the head of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. Masagatani has been under fire for the agency’s lack of progress in building homes and what some senators see as an unwillingness to improve.

Several senators also said that Roderick Becker similarly lacks the votes to be appointed as director of the Department of Budget and Finance. Becker has served as head of the Department of Accounting and General Services since November 2016 and previously was deputy director of the Department of Budget and Finance in 2014.

Nolan Espinda’s reappointment to lead the Department of Public Safety is also shaky, some senators said. Espinda faces scrutiny for treatment of inmates and the agency’s slow progress toward criminal justice reform.

Governor David Ige Budget presser closeup1.
Gov. David Ige faces stiff opposition on several of his cabinet appointments. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Ige is a second-term Democratic governor working with a Democrat-controlled Senate. But that doesn’t mean that they all get along. On the contrary, the chamber is split into factions and top senators fundraised for Ige’s primary opponent last year.

The lack of support for Ige’s nominees comes as the 2019 legislative session is set to open officially Wednesday. The governor is hoping that the Legislature will not only green-light his nominees but also approve his budget and his package of bills.

The governor still has not yet appointed directors for the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

Ige was unavailable for comment Monday afternoon but his spokeswoman said in an email that the governor appreciates the role of the Senate in providing advice and consent.

Espinda said through a spokeswoman that he was unavailable for comment Monday but looks forward to the Senate confirmation process and discussing any relevant issues. Becker said that he looks forward to meeting with senators and responding to their questions. Masagatani did not respond to a request for comment.

A key question is whether there’s enough opposition to force Ige to rescind one or more nominations.

Four years ago, opposition to the appointment of Carleton Ching to lead the Department of Land and Natural Resources led to an awkward, last-minute decision to pull Ching’s name from consideration during a floor session in which Ching was sitting in the Senate chamber with his family waiting to be confirmed.

The senators interviewed for this story would only speak on the condition of anonymity, a condition Civil Beat agreed to as necessary to obtain and share this sensitive information.

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