With senators like Lorraine Inouye and Kalani English hiding out and ducking their constituents’ calls, the epic fight between power and duty will play out at tomorrow’s full senate vote with an edge-of-the-seat denouement.
Ige has pulled out all stops, hinting at withholding funding for big projects like the Kihei High School, and getting Ways & Means chair Jill Tokuda to threaten future appropriations. Ige built friendships in the senate where he had been known as an amiable figure. However, he’s quickly using up his accumulated goodwill, trying to push through an appointment that has met with almost universal condemnation from the voters.
This is not the Ige that the senators knew in the senate.
Senators who give in to Ige’s pressure tactics are gambling that the voters will forget their vote before the next election. But they need only to look at the example of Malama Solomon who was on the wrong side of the PLDC for this head-in-the-sand approach to lose its attraction. As Sen Russell Rudermann reminded his colleagues:
The comparison to PLDC is unfair: this is the PLDC times 10. Instead of a branch of DLNR devoted to development instead of preservation, we are now looking at refocusing the entire department through a lens of development instead of stewardship and preservation. Did we learn anything from that episode? How important is stewardship of our public lands to the people of Hawaii? Did we hear the outcry, or must we repeat history because we failed to learn that lesson?
Senators who vote their conscience might see their CIP projects withheld or could find Sen Tokuda following through on Ige’s dirty work, blocking their projects. How likely is it that Sen Tokuda will risk her own career and follow through on this threat for Gov. Ige? Would she even keep her chair position if she does?
Gov Ige has put his senate friends in a precarious position. He’s asking them to risk their reputations and reelections to back a candidate that everyone agrees is not qualified. The eyes of the media and voters are on them and tomorrow there’s will be no hiding any more.
UPDATE: Sen Roz Baker says that Gov Ige and Chair Tokuda are not making threats to withhold funding.