Sen. Ron Kouchi elected new Senate President after 19-6 vote

Sen. Ron Kouchi elected new Senate President after 19-6 vote
File photo of State Sen. Donna Mercado Kim
File photo of State Sen. Donna Mercado Kim

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - There is a new State Senate president after a move to oust State Senator Donna Mercado Kim. The abrupt change in leadership came after a 19 to 6 vote in favor of State Senator Ron Kouchi of Kauai. After leading the chamber for three years, Kim handed over the gavel.

"I'd like to think that I did the best job I could, that I represented my constituents proudly, and that I held the government accountable," said Kim.

Kim, who represents Moanalua, Kalihi Valley and Kapalama, said she never received a clear-cut explanation about the reason for the switch. She acknowledged that she may have upset some committee chairs by going into their meetings and asking tough questions.

"I just felt that that was a responsibility in why the people voted for me and I didn't not want to take on a presidency where I just be in the background and be a rubber stamp," Kim said.

Kouchi served on the Kauai County Council for 22 years before being appointed to the State Senate in 2010. He described his leadership style as collaborative.

"I've been asked to serve as the president. I've accepted the support of my colleagues, but time will be the test. I'm not here to say I'm better, I'm worse. I've been asked to lead in a different way," said Kouchi.

"This was not easy for any one of us. It's not attributed to any one of us as well. This was a majority decision. It was a very difficult decision," said State Sen. Jill Tokuda, chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee.

One immediate change is that those with a leadership role in the Senate can no longer chair a committee.

"We want to divide out the responsibility. We want to make sure we can be as inclusive as possible," explained Kouchi.

The shakeup comes just days after Kim took the unusual steps of extending the medical marijuana bill deadline and removing State Senator Josh Green as a lead negotiator.

"I think you can say that everything is related in the Senate. There's a cause and action, domino effects, people start thinking about different things, so the short answer to your question is that everything is entwined," said Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English.

Senators who didn't support the reorganization could lose their committee chair posts.

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