Leadership challenge awaits Say
For the last two years, the voices of dissent in the state House have been organizing and looking for support in an effort to replace Speaker Calvin Say.
In the waning days of the 2008 session, insiders said an effort to reorganize fell a few votes short as the so-called "dissident" faction tried to strike an allegiance with House Republicans.
With the loss of at least two strong Say allies - Majority Leader Kirk Caldwell and Judiciary Chairman Tommy Waters - even outsiders say the longtime speaker could face a tough leadership challenge.
"I think it's reasonable to say political watchers should expect a serious challenge to his leadership post," said John Hart, a Hawaii Pacific University communications professor and political observer. "I would presume that (Say) expects that. He's been around. I don't think anything surprises him."
Say is off island this week, attending a national conference on the mainland, but Caldwell said he sees the results of Saturday's primary as positive for him.
"For me, it was critical that (state Rep.) Jon Riki Karamatsu survived the primary and that Kyle Yamashita survived the primary," said Caldwell, who gave up his House seat to run for City Council but was ultimately disqualified on a technicality.
Waters gave up his seat to concentrate on his law practice and spend time with his family.
"Those were good things for the speaker," Caldwell added. "They are strong supporters and very good members of the House and represent their districts very well. I don't see, in terms of what's happened in the primary, that as a negative thing for the speaker."
Rep. Scott Saiki, among the more outspoken members of the group that prefer to call themselves "independents" within the majority, said the results of the primary bode well for the prospects of getting a few more fresh faces in the House.
He singled out Mark Nakashima, seeking to replace Dwight Takamine on the Big Island, and Chris Lee, who is running against Quentin Kawananakoa for Waters' Waimanalo seat.
Lee's victory came against Ikaika Anderson, who had the support of many House leaders, including Vice Speaker Pono Chong, Rep. Ken Ito and Waters, all of whom were among his throng of sign wavers in the days leading up to the primary.
"We won't know until the general election, but it looks like there will be a more independent flavor to the House next year," Saiki said.
First things first, said Caldwell.
"Right now, what we're doing is we're working hard to try to get them elected in the general," he said. "(Say) wants to help them get elected and once elected, then he'll approach people to get their support."