Speaker v. Speaker

November 7th, 2012

State House Speaker Calvin Say and state Rep. Joseph Souki, the man Say replaced as speaker 13 years ago, spent much of Wednesday counting votes to see who will control the House.

At a luncheon at Alii Place across the street from the state Capitol, Say told his loyalists that the count among Democrats was tied at 22 to 22, sources say.

Several lawmakers, however, have yet to formally sign their allegiance to Say or Souki, so sources in both camps described the situation as fluid.

Souki, who had been in Say’s camp, is now the choice of House dissidents who have sought to remove Say as speaker for several years. The dissident faction has been led by Rep. Sylvia Luke and Rep. Scott Saiki.

Many dissidents view Souki, a veteran Maui lawmaker, as the instrument to break Say’s lock on the House but not as a long-term option as speaker.

Say,  the longest serving House speaker, has lost several important allies over the past few years due to turnover in the House. Most of the new Democrats elected this year have committed to the dissident faction.

Democrats increased their majority in the House after Tuesday’s elections by one — to 44 to 7 over Republicans.

Minority Republicans had committed to Say in a leadership fight that extended to opening day of the Legislature in 2011, but Democrats eventually organized without help from Republicans.

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