Saturday, April 26, 2003

Senate rejects 2 of
Lingle’s 6 nominees
for UH regent board

Two of the six people Gov. Linda Lingle wanted on the University of Hawaii Board of Regents were rejected last night by the Senate.

In separate 14-to-11 votes, the Senate handed Lingle her clearest defeat in the Legislature yet as it denied the nominations of Shelton Jim On and Edward Sultan.

The first vote, on Jim On's nomination, came at 10:20 p.m., after two hours of debate.

After the rejection, Sen. Bob Hogue, (R, Kailua-Kaneohe) said the vote "sucks."

The Sultan vote came around 10:40.

Minutes later, Lingle said "the senators had poor judgment.

"They had the opportunity to raise the level of the board of regents ... I am happy to be standing with them. It was a lose for the people of Hawaii."

Lingle and the nominees came to the Senate about 8:20 p.m. to watch the proceedings from the gallery.

The action capped a day of intense lobbying by Lingle, her Cabinet and by the Hawaii Republican Party.

Senate GOP leader Fred Hemmings (R, Lanikai-Kailua) defended the Jim On nomination, saying "it has now become a matter of principle, honor and dignity."

Hemmings said much of the opposition was based on the fact that Jim On and Sultan are strong Republicans.

Hemmings noted that even the committee reports urging the defeat of the pair said there was concerns about "political affiliation."

Kauai Democratic Sen. Gary Hooser said he was unable to support either nominee and that he had been threatened by Lingle's senior policy adviser, Randy Roth.

"It was made clear to me that if I voted the wrong way ... they would go to my district and speak to Lions Clubs and others and that there would be a price to pay.

"I do not take well to political threats or intimidation," Hooser said.

Sen. Sam Slom (R, Diamond Head-Hawaii Kai) countered, saying, "What we are seeing here tonight is character assassination."

Sen. Brian Taniguchi, a Manoa Democrat, praised Jim On, saying he went to college with him and knew him well.

"I believe he will be an advocate for the university and will look at the impact that university decisions have on the surrounding community," Taniguchi said.

At an afternoon news conference, Lingle said she was "cautiously optimistic" that the Senate would confirm Jim On, an attorney and GOP loyalist, and Sultan, a businessman who is married to Lingle's campaign finance director, Rae McCorkle.

"We have people from the community who have stepped forward and want to talk to the senators," Lingle said.

Jim On and Sultan spent much of yesterday going door to door in the Capitol trying to visit all 25 senators. Several senators had said earlier that they were concerned that the regent nominees had not made an effort to visit each senator, as is traditionally done before the Senate consents to a nomination.

Senate President Robert Bunda said earlier yesterday that the last-minute lobbying could help the two faltering nominations.

But Bunda said the nominations were in trouble because the pair had not done their homework and were not prepared to answer questions from the senators during their confirmation hearing before Sen. Norman Sakamoto's Education Committee.

"I thought the answers they gave were insufficient and they tried to dance around some of the questions," Bunda said.

The Senate did confirm the appointments of Kitty Lagareta, Trent Kakuda, Alvin Tanaka and Byron Bender to the Board of Regents.

Big Island Sen. Russell Kokubun (D, Hilo-Naalehu) voted against all the nominees to protest that Lingle had not nominated any regents from the Hilo-East Hawaii area, although the University of Hawaii at Hilo is in the district. Kokubun said that in previous administrations, at least one regent lived in the Hilo area.

University of Hawaii


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