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House Republicans will help Say retain leadership post

By Derrick DePledge

LAST UPDATED: 4:00 p.m. HST, Jan 7, 2011

State House Republicans said today that they will back House Speaker Calvin Say, potentially ending a leadership stalemate that has split majority Democrats.

Say, (D-St. Louis Heights, Palolo Valley, Wilhelmina Rise), has been one vote short of keeping control of the 51-member House in a leadership struggle that has lasted since the November elections. Say has 25 votes, while a dissident faction that prefers state Rep. Roy Takumi, (D-Pearl City, Momilani, Pacific Palisades), has 17 votes.

Say said he was "honored" and "grateful" for the GOP support for his leadership. He said he will meet privately today with his loyalists to discuss options, including whether to continue negotiating with the dissidents.

"I'm very honored that the minority caucus has thrown their full support behind me," Say said. "And I'm very grateful that they have considered me to be retained as the speaker."

State House Minority Leader Gene Ward, (R-Kalama Valley, Queen's Gate, Hawaii Kai), said the eight House Republicans have committed to Say. Ward said Republicans did not receive any committee chairmanships or leadership posts in exchange for their votes.

Ward said Republicans wanted to end the deadlock so the House could prepare for the new session that starts on Jan. 19.

"The public is fed up," he said. "The public is saying, `Why are you doing this? Let's get on with it.' They want to see some results. They want to know what's going to happen. "

State Rep. Cynthia Thielen, (R-Kailua, Kaneohe Bay), said it was difficult to prepare when the leadership posts and committee chairmanships are unknown.

"It was time to say `enough.' Let's get it moving," she said.

Say's group has offered dissidents four committee chairmanships and two leadership posts in an effort to break the stalemate. Dissidents, sources say, were preparing to counter with a chairmanship lineup that more closely reflects the numerical split between the two camps.

While the negotiations are ongoing, some dissidents indicated that they are prepared to take the challenge to opening day. A protracted leadership fight among majority Democrats during session could be a potential political embarrassment for the party and an obstacle to the legislative process.

Say has served as House speaker for 11 years and is the longest-serving speaker since statehood. Dissidents have said that they want more collective discussion and planning on public-policy issues and a leadership and committee lineup that better represents the strengths of the caucus.

If Say relies on Republicans to keep control of the chamber, he would be under even less obligation to assign dissidents leadership or committee posts.

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