By B.J. Reyes
Rep. Marcus Oshiro, currently the chairman of the House Finance Committee, issued a statement Friday in response to the announcement this week that a faction of Democrats in the House planned to form a coalition with the chamber’s seven Republicans in a challenge to the leadership of Speaker Calvin Say. The new speaker would be Speaker Emeritus Joe Souki.
In his written statement, Oshiro first shot down rumors that he may leave his House seat to join the Cabinet of Mayor-elect Kirk Caldwell at Honolulu Hale.
He then addressed the leadership situation, calling Souki’s coalition a “desperate power grab”:
“It concerns me that Speaker Emeritus Souki has made an agreement with the Minority Leader to offer leadership positions to members of the Minority in exchange for votes to support his quest to be Speaker. As a life-long Democrat, I am troubled that this was not discussed with the members of his own Majority Caucus, nor have the ramifications for this maneuver been fully vetted. If this plan goes through, House Republicans will be able to run in the next election on the accomplishments of the Democrat Majority, and most important, the potential for gridlock at the committee level is heightened. This is not in the spirit of true bi-partisanship; rather, it is a desperate power grab to win the Speakership without consideration for the health and welfare of the body.
“Finally, the public should realize that the House organization is not official until the 51 members vote on an organization resolution at the start of the legislative session. There is still time to consider who is best to lead the House, and I hope Majority and Minority members will think clearly on their options.”
With the seven Republicans, Souki would have 28 votes, two more than the 26 needed to control the 51-member House.
Say says he won’t hand over the gavel until the vote on leadership occurs on Opening Day of the Legislature, Jan. 16, and state Democratic Party Chairman Dante Carpenter says he may make another appeal to members to work out their differences within the caucus and not seek GOP help.*
(*UPDATED at 2:20 p.m. to CORRECT that Carpenter only is asking members to work out leadership within the Democratic caucus, not that he favors one faction over another.)