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.

10 Responses to “Speaker v. Speaker”

  1. hossana:

    Just plain and pure stupid local politics and I guess the public or electorate is to blame because we continually vote in the same olld…same old incumbents on every election cycle. THIS IS ABSURB!!

  2. ohiaforest3400:

    The fact that “the dissidents” would even consider organizing around Speaker Joe to oust Calvin Say “speaks” volumes abaout their character.

    Supposedly, “the dissidents” core gripe revolves around the lack of transparency, refusal to share power, and less than progressive policies that they say characterize Calvin Say’s leadership. However, Calvin Say is Joe Souki Lite in ths regard. While possessiing a wealth of institutional knowledge and having a soft spot for “the little guy,” Speaker Joe is old school thru and thru, makes Calvin Say look like a member of the dissidents, and is the very antithesis of the speaker type “the dissidents” claim they want to lead the House.

    What to conclude from this? There is but one conclusion: “the dissidents” have abandoned their so-called principles and made it personal. They want Calvin Say’s head on a pike to settle a score, regardless of what it takes and what consequences ensue.

    Sad. Very sad.

  3. ohiaforest3400:

    PS: Ding dong, the Lingle head is dead!!!! No more Mrs. Doubtfire staring out from the masthead of the S-A online edition.

    I wonder if she thinks it was worth it? At the rate Keith Rollman tells us Lingle was paying for the location ($10,000/mo. for 12 months), that means she paid about $1 for every vote by which she lost the election. Wow.

    And what do Lingle and Bob Le think of those “wacky” and “wrong” polls now? Derrick?

  4. jennifer:

    Clearly ohiaforest is in Say’s camp. He or she’s talks about circumstances 13 years ago. Highly possible ohiaforest is spreading false accusations. What about today’s situation? We have someone as Speaker of the House for 13 years who wants 2 more years. HE has had enough control for enough time.

  5. mswong:

    Aloha Ohia,

    Speaker Joe may be “old school” but he stayed in power a long time. In my family that means he’s smart and he can read tea leaves. I don’t understand why you think Speaker Joe will lead this group the way he did before. I think he can see like the rest of us that times have changed. Better than Say.

    Why you say the dissidents have abandoned their principles? They smart to choose Speaker Joe. He probably doesn’t love Say. After all Say replaced Souki! Remember, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. If bringing Souki in helps the dissidents make a more progressive ruling coalition, why not?

    No need make simple conclusions yet. Just wait and see.

  6. Kolea:


    I do not think the deal between the dissidents and Speaker Joe says anything negative about the dissidents. I think it shows wisdom and tactical maturity. How many times did “Sylvia-them” try to mount a direct challenge to Speaker Say and fall short? This time, they approached Souki early on and offered to combine forces in order to gain the number necessary to accomplish the goal. How good of a deal it might be will depend upon who gets what committee assignments. And whether the workstyle changes in the House.

    You say Joe Souki has a “soft spot for the little guy.” I used to think Joe Souki was a conservative fossil. But as I have observed the Lege closer and built up more relations with legislators, I have come to see that soft spot up close and have learned to appreciate Speaker Joe’s humor, compassion and deep understanding of the legislative process. Yes, this has happened after Souki stopped being Speaker, so perhaps his “mellowing” is situational and if he were to return as Speaker, perhaps he would return to the leadership style you describe.

    But I don’t think so. Not because he is irreversibly “mellow,” but because he knows that THIS TME most of his support comes from the dissidents and not as the result of loyalty to him.

    I’m no anarchist. But a lot of change and growth, of new opportunity, happens during an “interregnum,” as the constellations of power shift and power the new power is locked firmly into place. On a personal level, I can imagine Speaker Joe might get some satisfaction in regaining his status as Speaker for a couple of years and retiring in style. It must be much more satisfying than fading away as “former Speaker.”

    I’d be very intersted to learn the line-up. I am more than a bit surprised to hear the count is 22-22.

  7. ohiaforest3400:

    mswong, you may well be right. But let’s look at what was reported when Say took over from Souki in the first place.

    Although Speaker Joe retained his position following the 1996 elections, the winds of change had already begun to blow. A November 7, 1996, Star-Bulletin article reported that, “In the House, a group of young Democratic reformers have started meetings to work on possible leadership changes because [of] voter dissatisfaction with the ruling Democratic organization headed by Speaker Joe Souki.” Some speculated that “Souki will be able to retain the speakership if he agrees to change his leadership style, at times characterized as ‘iron-fisted.’”

    Following the next election, a November 18, 1998, Star-Bulletin article reported that “[s]ome House members have criticized Souki’s leadership style as being too authoritarian” and that “House Democrats and Republicans said House dissidents, who are usually the younger and more idealistic lawmakers, and members of Say’s money panel form the base for Say’s candidacy.” Imagine that, Say, representing the young, idealistic dissidents, takes on the iron-fisted old guard led by Souki.

    The following day, a Star-Bulletin article reported that Say had accumulated enough votes to become Speaker because, according to one House member “Say’s appeal cuts across ‘all the lines and factions.’” Another member stated that “during a meeting with House dissidents on Monday,’[Say] stated there would be no horse trading’ — that he wouldn’t offer chairmanships or other perks in return for their support. ‘That position could have hurt him,’” and “‘showed a lot of leadership and courage.’”

    Once Say prevailed in the race to become Speaker, according to a December 2, 1998, Star-Bulletin article, Say “promised to change the way the House is organized. Instead of promising representatives positions in exchange for their votes, he began talking to each of the 39 House Democrats, saying he wanted to try to put them in the positions they were best suited for.”

    A November 20, 1998, Star-Bulletin article reported that, according to other lawmakers, Say “did not seek the House’s No. 1 position.” “Rather, House dissidents and disenchanted Souki supporters turned to him, believing that he would be more open and accessible than Souki, who has been branded as ‘autocratic’ by his critics.” “Even Souki . . . saw the inevitability of the ascension of his longtime friend and protege,” “acknowledged that Say . . . had the votes to replace him and . . . would willingly step aside.”

    Speaker Joe has been a reliable and close supporter of Say since then. Many of the dissidents took their turn in leadership (Sylvia Luke as Vice-Speaker and Chair of Judiciary; Scott Saiki as Majority Leader, etc) but, with the possible exception of Luke, they couldn’t get on the same page and do their jobs as a group, some unable to do so even individually. If history is any indicator, it would seem that a third person would most likely be the successful new rallying point, just as Say was when Souki was replaced.

    Speaker Joe may have softened, may want to nurture the next generation of leaders, provide cohesion to a disparate group, etc. Only time will tell. But, right now, the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. It may be simple but it’s true. Until proved otherwise.

  8. Goober:

    Seems that Souki wants the last Say
    but will be denied due to an opinion and rumor
    that he wants rail built on Maui as well as Oahu.
    Maybe connect the DOTs together since there is no super ferry.

  9. mswong:

    Ho! Ohia,

    You do so much research, wear me out to read all dat!

    To me its simple. I think the legislature majority works like one group. One person cannot rule everything unless da uddahs let ‘em. Das what Speaker Joe did before wen he was der long time. As what Speaker Say been doing lately cuz he been der long time already. I think Speaker Joe is smart ‘nuf to know things change. Da 1990s wen he was speaker is OLD times now.

    He musta decided dis time he gone work wit da dissidents. Get plenty smart guys in da dissidents. So if he gets up der – why you think he gone try rule all dose guys? Day da ones fighting da long-time speaker every time. I think if he runs with da dissidents he gone work wit da dissidents. Da national republicans even talking bout raising taxes now. If dose guys can change, I think Speaker Joe and da dissidents can too.

    Why you make it so complicated?

  10. Goober:

    “da uddahs” is that the opposite of Da Bruddahs?

    Seems when one comments in pidgin English
    the credibility of what said is just CooCoo.

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