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“This Sucks.” These were the most down-to-earth words summing up what happened late Friday night at the Hawaii State Capitol on the Senate floor.
The heartfelt statement came from Sen. Bob Hogue, R-Kaneohe, who was extremely emotional after the Senate Democrat majority voted down two of the governor’s best-qualified nominees for the University of Hawaii Board of Regents for no legitimate reason, rather because of petty politics. Senate President Robert Bunda, D-North Shore, called Hogue out of order.
But Hogue’s statement resounded with many in the Senate gallery, on the Senate floor and in the community. That is because the Senate Democrat majority, who in the case of both governor’s nominees, Shelton Jim On and Ed Sultan, voted 14 to 11 not to confirm, without any logical reason for their actions or any hard evidence there was just cause to vote against them.
Many of the Democrats in the Senate described during the two-hour debate during the nearly 5-hour night session, their “feelings” about the candidates, rather than offering substantive reasons.
The only Democrat Senator who voted against all six of the governor’s Regent nominees without making it personal or political was Sen. Russell Kokubun, D-Big Island. Kokubun, before the voting began, announced he was consistently going to vote no on all candidates to protest the fact that the governor did not nominate anyone from the island he represents, which houses a branch of the University of Hawaii campus.
In the case of Shelton Jim On, an attorney and CPA, Senate Vice President Donna Kim and Sen. Education Chair Norman Sakamoto claimed a single email, which they showed to Senate Minority Leader Fred Hemmings after removing the name of the individual who sent it, contributed to their decision. Kim later said the person who sent the email was prominent local attorney Jim Bickerton, though she did not disclose the content of the email or the nature of his complaints. Republicans called the email scurrilous, anonymous and not worth the paper it was printed on, and emphasized On should be allowed to respond to any legitimate concerns his appointment.
Kim also purported to have received calls from people in the community opposed to On, including one call she shared with Sakamoto who just happened to come to her office during one of the calls, but they would not share that information publicly. That is with the exception of one call Kim says was from an alleged prominent Republican involved with the governor’s campaign. Interestingly, neither the governor, her top advisors, or any of the many Republicans sitting in the gallery during the Senate debate knew of this person — Jim Marn of McCully Shopping Center –