Dru Kanuha, a Big Island senator who was previously chairman of the Hawaii County Council, was named majority leader of the Senate on Wednesday, the Senate announced in a press release.

Kanuha, who was first elected to the Senate in 2018, replaces outgoing Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English, who retired Saturday to deal with long-term health impacts from a case of COVID-19.

“Senator Kanuha is an experienced legislator who has served as an integral part of our Senate leadership team since being elected to our chamber in 2018,” Senate President Ron Kouchi said in the press release. “I am confident that, as majority leader, he will help shape our priorities and guide our caucus as we begin to prepare for the next legislative session.”

Senator Dru Kanuha during a housing hearing at the Capitol.
Sen. Dru Kanuha was named the new majority leader of the Senate. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

Kanuha will also retain membership on the Senate Housing, Education and Ways and Means committees.

Sen. Bennette Misalucha is being assigned to English’s seat on the money committee.

Maui County Democrats are scheduled to meet on May 15 to nominate three candidates that could serve the rest of English’s term, which ends in 2022.

Senate District 7 encompasses much of rural East Maui as well as the islands of Molokai, Lanai and Kahoolawe.

Rep. Lynn DeCoite has already said she would like to be considered for the spot, as has longtime activist Walter Ritte. Timothy Lara, an environmentalist and entrepreneur, also wants to be considered for the role.

Gov. David Ige will ultimately decide on who will take the Senate seat from the list forwarded by the Democratic Party.

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