Governor calls freshman senator’s controversial comments an ‘abomination’

It all started when Sen. Brenton Awa told a respected Hawaiian leader she "would have been hung" for criticizing him at a neighborhood board meeting.
Published: May. 12, 2023 at 4:46 PM HST|Updated: May. 12, 2023 at 5:28 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - What began as controversial comments at a neighborhood board meeting has led to fierce reaction at the highest level.

Gov. Josh Green is calling the statements of a freshman senator at a recent public meeting an “abomination.”

The comments in question were from state Sen. Brenton Awa toward revered Hawaiian cultural leader, Leialoha Rocky Kaluhiwa. They were made during a virtual Kahaluu neighborhood board meeting in March.

“If we are talking Hawaiians, you would have been hung for not supporting a Hawaiian,” Awa told Kaluhiwa.

A constituent who was not at the meeting made complaints to the Governor’s Office and state Senate.

On HNN’s Sunrise on Friday morning, Green said he will deal with any complaint “forcefully.”

“There is no place for violence against any individual in our state, but the threat of violence from an elected official gives me great pause,” said Green.

“I hope he will apologize. I hope he will actually have real contrition, but that was an abomination,” he added.

The verbal confrontation happened when Kaluhiwa criticized Awa for one of his votes and said his grandfather would have been disappointed.

Awa told Hawaii News Now his comments were not violent.

“My comments I don’t feel were violent. I feel like I was speaking for what would be,” Awa said Friday.

Awa says he’s since spoken to Kaluhiwa and will not apologize.

He believes the governor is blowing his comments out of proportion.

“He’s the governor, he’s not God, so he shouldn’t judge,” said Awa.

He added: “The governor is from Pennsylvania. I’m native from this place and I’ll leave it at that.”

When HNN asked Awa to clarify, he said, “There’s different perceptions. Our mentality is our governor should never be not from here.”

Senate President Ron Kouchi said the Senate has begun the process of addressing the complaint. According to legislative rules, that could include an administrative hearing.

Kaluhiwa isn’t commenting.