Souki is pleased with Woodson’s work, but he did not endorse him

House Speaker Joe Souki said Sunday that he has not endorsed Kahului Rep. Justin Woodson in the Democratic primary to keep the 9th House District seat.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie appointed Woodson, a Democrat, to the Central Maui seat in early 2013.

A story published on Page A3 on Sunday reported the endorsement, based on a news release sent to The Maui News from Woodson’s campaign.

But, after seeing the newspaper’s report Sunday, Souki said he was “very disappointed” and “distressed” with Woodson for making the announcement late last week.

“I normally do not endorse Democrats in the primary” election, he said.

Phone messages and an email seeking an explanation from Woodson or his campaign manager, Thelma Pascua Suyat, went unreturned Sunday.

Former Maui County Mayor James “Kimo” Apana has filed as a Democratic candidate for the 9th House seat, which covers Kahului, Puunene, Old Sand Hills and Maui Lani.

Souki said that although he’s happy with Woodson’s work as a legislator and appreciates the lawmaker’s support of his leadership, he also has a long history with the Apana family and the former mayor.

“I am not endorsing either of them,” he said of Woodson and Apana. “I’ll keep neutral until the primary is over.” Then he said he’d support the party’s nominee.

The primary election is Aug. 9, and the general election is Nov. 4.

June 3 is the deadline for candidates to file nomination papers.

Abercrombie appointed Woodson to the 9th House seat after Gil Keith-Agaran vacated it to accept the governor’s appointment of him to the Central Maui 5th Senate seat. That seat was left open by former Senate President Shan Tsutsui, who accepted an appointment from Abercrombie to the lieutenant governor’s office to fill an opening left when Brian Schatz was appointed to the U.S. Senate.

The Dec. 17, 2012, death of longtime U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye led to the chain reaction of political seat openings and appointments to fill them.