Tsutsui to step down as lieutenant governor at month’s end

Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui is stepping down as lieutenant governor.

The lieutenant governor made the announcement Monday. His resignation is effective Jan. 31.

“Having the opportunity to relocate has been something my wife and I have talked about for a while, and I think the reality kind of set in when I took my daughter up to college in September and realized that I did miss a lot of those valuable moments, so I’m kind of excited to have this opportunity to move back to Maui,” Tsutsui told KHON2.

Why leave now instead of at the end of his term?

“Again, it’s kind of that gut-check that I got when I dropped my daughter off at school in September. Taking her off to college and realizing that I missed 16 out of her 18 years being here (on Oahu), I think played a large part into kind of this acceleration,” he replied. “I don’t think there ever is a perfect time to leave public service, but at this point, in our fourth year, the governor has submitted his fourth and final budget request to the legislature for this term. His legislative package is in front of the legislature. So at this point, it’s just kind of in the legislature’s hands. Starting Feb. 1st, filing period opens, so we start heading into the next election cycle. Me sitting out of it, not running for office in 2018, I felt like this was a good time.”

Tsutsui will join Strategies 360 as a senior vice president. The public affairs, strategic communications and research firm has offices in Hawaii, 11 other Western states and Washington D.C.

“While it was known that Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui would not be seeking re-election to his current office, being informed that the effective date of his resignation is in two days leaves me with mixed emotions,” said Senate President Ronald Kouchi. “While I am personally happy that Shan is able to spend more time with his family, who has sacrificed in order for Shan to serve Maui, the State Senate, and the State of Hawaii, I am professionally saddened because Shan’s resignation leaves a gaping hole in our current political fabric.”

To fill the office of lieutenant governor until the next election would fall upon the president of the Senate, Kouchi, followed by speaker of the House of Representatives, Scott Saiki. Kouchi has already said he does not want to take the position, because he wants to keep serving his district.

“My term runs through 2020 and I asked the people of Kauai and Niihau to support me in that capacity, and I intend to keep my commitment to them,” he told KHON2.

Saiki told us Tuesday he isn’t interested in the post, either.

“I think the opportunity makes you kind of assess what your priorities are, and I just decided that I want to serve in the House,” he said. “For this year, the House has prioritized homelessness and housing as the top two areas to focus on, so there’s a lot of work ahead of us.”

If neither of them accept, the office’s order of succession is as follows: attorney general, director of finance, comptroller, director of taxation, and director of human resources development.

Attorney General Doug Chin is running for U.S. Congress and plans to resign as attorney general in March. His spokeswoman says he will not comment on the opportunities that are not in front of him.

Finance director Laurel Johnston tells us she would not be eligible because she is only in an acting capacity.

So if she doesn’t get the job, then it goes to the comptroller, Roderick Becker.

There are several candidates already planning to run for the lieutenant governor’s seat, but none are in line for the appointment.

KHON2 asked John Hart, Hawaii Pacific University professor, why would people want that seat?

“It’s kind of like being the vice president,” he replied. “You’re the person in waiting, but it is viewed as a springboard seat. In other words, it’s a high-visibility opportunity to do other things. How much you’re allowed to do depends on the governor.

“The lieutenant governor is in a good position to run for governor, and given that the governor’s seat has been turning over a lot lately, there is a reason why a lot of people are running for lieutenant governor,” Hart added.

Tsutsui’s statement follows in its entirety:

“With a grateful, yet heavy heart I am announcing today that I will be resigning as the Lieutenant Governor of the State of Hawaii, effective January 31, 2018. Over the past 15 years, it has been my honor and privilege to have served the people of Hawaii, first as a State Senator from Maui and Senate President, and currently as your Lieutenant Governor. Throughout that time, I have always been mindful of the tremendous responsibility that comes with public 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, while honoring our shared core values of honesty, integrity and respect.

As Senate President, I was fortunate to draw upon my many years in the Senate and the relationships that I had established to exhibit a collaborative style of leadership, and I did my best to ensure that all Senators were respected and heard. As your Lieutenant Governor, I have continued to work cooperatively with leaders in the public and private sectors, as well as members of the public, with that same level of respect and attention. During this time, I am proud to have established the Resources for Enrichment, Athletics, Culture and Health (R.E.A.C.H.) initiative to support after-school programs for middle and intermediate public school students. As a father, I was especially concerned with ensuring that middle school students engage in positive activities and relationships during hours when many are left unsupervised because their parents are working. Since 2013, R.E.A.C.H. has invested approximately $2.75M in more than 40 public middle and intermediate schools, including charter schools, statewide, reaching thousands of students. Funds have helped to provide robotics programs; hula, ukulele, music and other dance lessons; basketball, soccer, wrestling and other sports; cooking, fishing, art, and hydroponics; and many other clubs and programs. Participating students have shown improved attendance, attitude, behavior and even grades.

Additionally, I was excited to have taken the reigns of the Farm to School Initiative, which we have developed into the “‘Aina Pono: Hawai‘i’s Farm to Cafeteria Initiative,” to increase the purchase and consumption of local food in our school cafeterias. With an enthusiastic team of advisors and ‘doers,’ along with support from the Department of Education, Department of Agriculture, private partners such as The Kohala Center, and many other generous donors, a burgeoning pilot project was launched to infuse local foods and flavors into our school menus, while providing healthier options for our keiki. As the project continues to grow and expand throughout the State, the effects will have a lasting impact on our keiki, the agriculture industry, and the state’s procurement processes.

Throughout my time in office, it has been an absolute pleasure to have had the opportunity to meet so many talented and inspiring individuals. I have witnessed firsthand the many hardworking families who fight traffic in their daily commutes, while holding down multiple jobs to provide a better life for their keiki; the bright, dedicated students who not only excel in Hawaii but can also compete with their counterparts nationally; and the small businesses and farms using innovative and entrepreneurial ideas to revitalize family businesses. You have all inspired me and helped to make me a better person and leader. I will cherish these experiences and lessons and carry them with me throughout my life.

I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the people of Hawaii for the opportunity to have served you all these years. Truly, I have been blessed with the support of so many individuals, family and friends. I especially thank my incredible family—my wife, children, parents and extended ohana for their tremendous love, support and many sacrifices over the years. I would like to thank Governor Ige for the privilege of serving in his Administration. To Neil and Nancy, Lyndelle and I thank you for your friendship and kindness and the love you have shared with our daughters. I also send my aloha to my former colleagues in the Legislature and the tens of thousands of public employees throughout the State for their hard work and dedication to the people of Hawaii. Finally, a big mahalo to my staff and security for your unwavering devotion and enduring commitment to the office and to helping me best serve the people of the State. Your hard work did not go unnoticed, and I will be forever grateful to each of you.

In his remarks commemorating the 75th Pearl Harbor anniversary, President Barack Obama noted, ‘we cannot choose the history that we inherit. But we can choose what lessons to draw from it, and use those lessons to chart our own futures.’ Accordingly, it’s my hope that we will continue to acknowledge the rich history of our State, and remain grateful for the contributions and sacrifices of generations past; that we will explore new ways to invest in our residents, businesses, and communities to make them more sustainable, competitive, and economically robust. And 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.”

§26-2 Order of succession to offices of governor and lieutenant governor. (a) When the office of lieutenant governor is vacant by reason of the lieutenant governor’s becoming governor, or the lieutenant governor’s failure to qualify, or the lieutenant governor’s removal from office, death, resignation, or otherwise, the powers and duties of the office of lieutenant governor shall devolve upon the president of the senate; or, if there is none or upon the president’s failure to resign promptly from all legislative offices held by the president, then upon the speaker of the house of representatives; or if there is none or upon the speaker’s failure to resign promptly from all legislative offices held by the speaker, then upon the attorney general, the director of finance, the comptroller, the director of taxation, and the director of human resources development in the order named; provided that any officer upon whom the powers and duties of the office of lieutenant governor devolve may decline the powers and duties without the officer’s resignation from the office by virtue of the holding of which the officer qualifies to act as lieutenant governor, in which event the powers and duties will devolve upon the next officer listed in the order of succession.

(b) When the lieutenant governor is temporarily absent from the State or is temporarily disabled, the powers and duties of the office of the lieutenant governor shall devolve upon the foregoing officers, other than the president of the senate and the speaker of the house, in the order named.

(c) The powers and duties of any officer acting as lieutenant governor under this section shall include the powers and duties of the office of governor when that office is vacant, or when the governor is absent from the State or is unable to exercise and discharge the powers and duties of the governor’s office, in addition to the other powers and duties of the lieutenant governor.
No person other than the elected governor or lieutenant governor shall become governor, provision being made by this section only for an acting governor.

(d) An officer succeeding to the powers and duties of the lieutenant governor, under subsection (b) of this section, may designate an officer in the office of the lieutenant governor to perform any or all functions other than those pertaining to the office of governor.

(e) During the period that any officer, under this section is exercising the powers and performing the duties of the office of governor or lieutenant governor by reason of a permanent vacancy therein, and not otherwise, the officer shall receive the compensation and perquisites of the governor or lieutenant governor, as the case may be.

(f) In a case covered by subsection (a), the taking of the oath of office by an officer, other than a legislative officer required to resign under subsection (a), shall be held to constitute the officer’s resignation from the office by virtue of the holding of which the officer qualifies to act as lieutenant governor.

(g) No officer shall act as governor or lieutenant governor under subsection (a) or (b) of this section, unless the officer is eligible to the office of governor under the constitution. No officer other than a legislative officer shall act as governor or lieutenant governor under this section unless the officer has been appointed and confirmed prior to the time the powers and duties of the office of governor or of lieutenant governor devolve upon the officer. No officer shall act as governor or lieutenant governor under this section if the officer is under impeachment at the time the powers and duties of the office of governor or lieutenant governor devolve upon the officer. [L 1965, c 262, §1; Supp, §14A-8.5; HRS §26-2; gen ch 1985; am L 1994, c 56, §21]

Case Notes

Section provides order of succession that applies only after respective officers have properly been elected to public office; it does not relieve prospective candidate from compliance with Hawaii constitution, article V, §2 during the qualification and nomination process. 81 H. 230, 915 P.2d 704.

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