Abinsay joins House exodus
The state legislator and some others are retiring or seek higher office
Eleven-year legislative veteran Rep. Felipe Abinsay joins a group of seven other representatives leaving the state House this year.
Yesterday, Abinsay (D, Kalihi-Kapalama) announced that health concerns forced him to retire.
"Serving in the state Legislature always humbled me. People tend to forget where they came from. I found that the value of being at the Legislature was that it reminded me that I came from a small barrio in the Philippines. To become a state legislator was a great honor," Abinsay said.
Abinsay had been chairman of the Agriculture Committee. He was hospitalized earlier this year with heart problems.
Earlier this month, Kauai Democratic Reps. Ezra Kanoho, Water, Land and Ocean Resources Committee chairman; and Bertha Kawakami, vice chairwoman of the Finance Committee, also announced they were retiring.
At the end of the session, the longtime Health Committee chairman, Rep. Dennis Arakaki, announced he would not run.
And Big Island Rep. Helene Hale, who has served in various elected offices since 1954, announced that at 88 she was ready to retire. Rep. Brian Schatz decided to run for Congress instead of re-election.
On the Republican side, Rep. Bud Stonebraker and Chris Halford are also retiring.
"It is similar to what happened in 1994 when we had a combination of people retiring and seeking higher office," Rep. Marcus Oshiro, majority leader, said.
At the same time, as of yesterday there were six uncontested Senate seats with no one running against the incumbent and 12 House seats without a contest. Tuesday is the state deadline for candidates to file for the fall elections.
Speaker Calvin Say agreed the departures will open up "a lot of opportunity for people after the November elections."
With a large influx of new members, there are always changes in some leadership positions, but Say said he does not think his own position is in jeopardy.
"I haven't heard of any criticism. I have been a fair and open speaker, and I haven't heard of any rumbling at this point," Say said.
Although Say said he is expecting Republicans to challenge in several Democratic house districts, Oshiro said he expects the open districts to elect representatives from the same party as the previous incumbent.
In the last four years, the GOP in the House has been cut nearly in half, going from an all-time high since statehood of 19 to just 10 today.