Loyalty Matters In Local Politics

Does loyalty matter in local politics?

You’d better believe it.

Dissident Democrats in the state House of Representatives, long on the outs with Speaker Calvin Say, joined with Republicans to oust Say as speaker and hand the gavel back to Joe Souki of Maui.

Some observers said the dissidents were not being loyal to the Democratic Party. Oh well.

Meanwhile, those loyal to Say are now seeing their power and influence diminished, and their choice offices and committee assignments given to others.

Look where loyalty got them. Then there’s the case of filling the late Sen. Dan Inouye’s seat in Washington.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie, then a congressman, was one of the first into the Obama boat in 2008, owing largely to his friendship with Obama’s father when both were at UH.

Brian Schatz, then a state legislator and until recently Abercrombie’s lieutenant governor, also was early into the Obama boat, even co-chairing his ’08 campaign in Hawaii and getting involved again last year.

Sen. Inouye, the real leader of Hawaii’s Democrats, supported Hillary Clinton in ’08. Colleen Hanabusa, then a state legislator with eyes on a Washington prize, loyally followed Inouye.

Fast forward four years, and on his deathbed Inouye writes a letter to now-Gov. Abercrombie, asking that he grant one last wish and appoint Hanabusa to his seat.

Perhaps tired of having kowtowed to Inouye for so many years in D.C., and realizing that he is now the king of Hawaii Dems, Neil ignores Inouye, bypasses Hanabusa and appoints Schatz – allowing him to be sworn in before our other new senator, Mazie Hirono, another Inouye loyalist, and become our senior senator.

Senate president Shan Tsutsui was then appointed to take over as lieutenant governor.

Clearly, the Obama loyalists won here.

So the real question isn’t so much about loyalty – it does matter in Hawaii politics.

Just make sure you get in the right boat.