Who will become next lieutenant governor? Attorney general mulling it over

Published: Jan. 29, 2018 at 3:29 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 30, 2018 at 5:32 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui will officially resign his role Wednesday, three days after announcing he'd be leaving the role for the private sector.

Who will take on the role?

The state Senate president and House speaker have already turned it down.

And now state Attorney General Doug Chin is thinking it over.

"I will talk it over with my family and announce my decision on Friday," Chin said, in a brief statement Tuesday.

Chin had already planned to step down from the Attorney General's office in March as he runs for Congress.

Tsutsui told Hawaii News Now on Monday the timing of his announcement was linked to his job plans. But the decision does come as Gov. David Ige faces mounting critiques of his leadership style, especially in the wake of this month's false missile alert.

"I thanked him for giving me the opportunity to serve with him," Tsutsui said. "He wished me the best going forward."

Tsutsui and Ige have had a difficult relationship for years, and both have acknowledged the significant gulf between their offices.

In a statement Monday, Ige wished Tsutsui well and thanked him for his years of public service. But he didn't discuss next steps for the office.

Tsutsui has maintained a low profile in the lieutenant governor's office, in large part because the governor — by his own admission — has kept him out of large decision-making.

Tsutsui said he plans to return to Maui to become senior vice president at communications firm Strategies 360, which serves Hawaii, 11 other Western states and Washington, D.C.

In October 2017, Tsutsui announced he didn't plan to seek re-election. He also has no immediate plans to seek another elective office.

"I have greatly appreciated the trust and confidence that was bestowed upon me and have done my best to build a better Hawaii through collaboration and hard work," Tsutsui said, in a statement announcing his decision. "As I leave public service, I look forward to continuing to be a part of Hawaii's future and helping to forge a new path that honors our shared beliefs and my continued commitment to improving the lives of the people of Hawaii."

Tsutsui's resignation comes as Ige faces mounting questions over his leadership, including about his administration's handling of a false missile alert sent to all Hawaii phones earlier this month.

In a stinging critique of Ige last week, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard endorsed U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa for governor, saying that "now more than ever ... Hawaii needs a strong dynamic leader at the helm of our state."

Ige responded by saying he welcomes the chance to point to his record and convince voters he deserves a second term.

During his tenure, Tsutsui has largely worked on his own, seeking to bolster school lunch programs and food sustainability in the islands.

In 2015, he publicly supported a change to Hawaii law that would allow gubernatorial candidates to select running mates, rather than candidates running separately for the lieutenant governor position.

That change didn't happen. But at the time, Tsutsui said separate elections for the two positions just didn't make sense, and essentially created a forced marriage — that could go sour quickly.

Ige has also acknowledged the distance between him and his no. 2, saying that while they have a good relationship, he's not part of the major decisions being made in the governor's office.

Tsutsui took over the role as lieutenant governor in 2012, after Gov. Neil Abercrombie tapped tapped then-Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz to fill the seat left behind by the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye. Tsutsui won re-election to a full term in 2014.

Before becoming lieutenant governor, Tsutsui served in the state Senate for a decade.

This story will be updated.

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