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Green won’t fill Senate vacancy until after primary election

CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / FEB. 14, 2023
                                State Sen. Maile Shimabukuro, seen here during a 2023 Committee on Hawaiian Affairs hearing at the Capitol, resigned from her Senate seat at the end of the 2024 legislative session.
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CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / FEB. 14, 2023

State Sen. Maile Shimabukuro, seen here during a 2023 Committee on Hawaiian Affairs hearing at the Capitol, resigned from her Senate seat at the end of the 2024 legislative session.

Gov. Josh Green notified legislative leaders today that he will not fill a controversial West Oahu state Senate seat until after the Aug. 10 primary election, which will miss the 60-day deadline set by law.

Green told Senate President Ronald Kouchi and House Speaker Scott Saiki his only choice would be to appoint a candidate running in the primary election, and it would be unfair to give one candidate an advantage over others.

Sen. Maile Shimabukuro resigned from her District 22 seat (Ko Olina, Nanakuli, Maili, Waianae, Makaha, Makua) at the end of the 2024 session, saying she wouldn’t finish her term that ended in November in order to spend more time with family and friends.

She endorsed state Rep. Cedric Gates, who is battling former state Rep. Stacelynn Eli in the Democratic primary, to succeed her, and critics accused her of a set-up to get Green to appoint Gates interim senator to give him the advantage of running as the incumbent.

By law, the governor must appoint at a replacement for a departing legislator within 60 days of the vacancy from a list of three names provided by the lawmaker’s political party.

Shimabukuro resigned May 31, which put the deadline for naming a replacement 11 days before the primary election. Democrats sent Green a list that included Gates, Eli and Cross Makani Crabbe, a candidate for the House seat Gates is leaving.

Green wrote Kouchi and Saiki that after consulting with the attorney general, he doesn’t believe the Legislature “intended to require the governor to select a senator within a specified timeframe when doing so would place the full weight of the governor’s office on the scales in favor of one candidate over the others.”

“I firmly believe that democracy will best be served by my allowing the voters to select the candidate of their choice, and by my respecting their decision,” he said, promising to appoint the primary winner as interim senator.

Green told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, “I just felt it wasn’t right to appoint one candidate over another this close to an election. My constitutional responsibility to have fair elections was most important here. I’ll ask the Legislature to consider legislation next year that would prevent any appointments to fill vacant seats within 120 days of an election.”

Re: Appointment for Democratic Vacancy to Senate District 22 by Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Scribd

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