Moments before the Hawaii State Senate was set to begin voting Wednesday on Governor David Ige's controversial nomination to lead the Department of Land and Natural Resources, Ige withdrew his nomination.
Last Thursday, the Senate's Water and Land Committee voted 5-2 against supporting Carleton Ching for the post. Ching has spent 12 years as a lobbyist for Castle & Cooke, one of the state's largest developers. Opponents of the nomination said Ching, with his history of work in development, would be faced with conflicts of interest should he be approved for the new post.
Senators did not vote in open session, but a political insider at the legislature said a vote behind closed doors was 13 Senators against Carleton Ching's nomination to chair the Department of Land and Natural Resources and 12 in favor.
"I did not want to put Carleton or his family through a floor vote if we did not have a majority support," Ige said.
A Senate source said what support Ching did have fell apart Tuesday night when two Senators who were inclined to say yes changed to a no vote.
"Obviously, when you walk into a game you want to win. You never go in wanting to lose," Ching said.
Ige was criticized for standing by his choice, given Ching's background as a lobbyist for developers and as a vice president at Castle & Cooke.
DLNR is charged with protecting Hawaii's natural resources.
"We were convinced that this was not the man for the job. If he was in charge we would be afraid of our ability to survive," Hawaiian activist Walter Ritte said.
"I think it would have been an uphill challenge for him to get acquainted with the executions of the job, with the laws that he was expected to comply with," said Marti Townsend, executive director of The Outdoor Circle.
Ige's withdrawal announcement comes a week after a Senate committee voted 5-2 against Ching.
"This is not a setback for me. You continue to do what you do. You move forward," Ching said.
Ige said the backlash to Ching's credentials won't influence his next choice for the DLNR post.
"I'm not going to put them into boxes. It's really about finding a leader who provides the appropriate skills that can move the department forward," he said.
Ching is on paid leave from Castle & Cooke, but he can return to his job. He hinted that he might consider other options. He also said he was thankful for the support of his family during the confirmation process.
"My family is my foundation. If you saw them they stood by me all through the process. That's what we do as family," he said.
To have a nominee confirmed before the end of the legislative session, Ige will have to submit a name to the Senate by April 6.