Special to The Hawai‘i Herald
For the past quarter of a century, only two men have controlled the House of Representatives in Hawai‘i.
Maui Democratic Rep. Joe Souki was Speaker of the House from 1993 until 1999, when he was ousted by Pälolo Democratic Rep. Calvin Say.
Then in 2013, Souki put together a coalition of Republicans and Democrats to retake the speakership from Say. That lasted until this past spring when, on the closing day of the legislative session, Souki was again toppled.
When Souki was replaced for a second time, it was remarkably by someone new, Rep. Scott Saiki, a Democrat who represents O‘ahu’s
McCully to Downtown area.
Although Saiki, who turned 53 last month, has 23 years of legislative service, he is somewhat of a new face because he spent nearly half of that time on the political outs.
“I started off as a dissident,” Saiki said in an interview.
“Joe was speaker at the time and I was part of the group that didn’t support him. Over half of my time has been spent as a dissident — four years under Joe and eight years under Calvin.”
For much of that time, Saiki, who has a quiet, but firm speaking style, has not been one for political crusades, but he has always been an independent voice.
“Everyone should be a dissident during their legislative career because it gives you a different perspective,” says Saiki.
Asked what he thought of Scott Saiki after he was deposed by the liberal University of Hawai‘i-trained attorney, Souki said: “Right now I don’t think too highly of him.”
“I think Scott is a very competent person; he is very smart,” added the 84-year-old Souki.
While Saiki said his path to becoming just the 10th House leader since statehood was never plotted or planned, he does appreciate that his leadership of a tight group of Democrats was forged long ago.
“We were pretty close and loyal to each other,” he said.
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