Sour grapes hit the floor

Maui’s Joe Souki was formally chosen speaker of the state House of Representatives on Wednesday, but not without efforts and aftershocks from his opponents that smacked of sour grapes.

Souki’s supporters easily defeated a floor amendment that would have given members a chance to formally vote for ousted Speaker Calvin Say’s would-be successor, Rep. Marcus Oshiro.

Say’s last-ditch effort was not unexpected, but the public posturing of Oshiro and Oahu Rep. Sharon Har gave the proceedings a nasty undertone. Oshiro could be heard on television coverage shouting “Nay!” during the resolution to approve the new leadership’s committee assignments.

Har’s speech against the resolution invoked terms like “retribution,” “vengeance,” “vindictiveness” and “punishment.”

In a later interview with The Maui News, she accused Souki of ousting Say to gain revenge for his own ouster from the speakership 14 years ago.

She said of the selection of the 80-year-old Souki: “That’s moving backward; that’s not moving forward.”

For his part, Souki simply said Har was “taking it very hard.”

The new speaker engaged in a tough political battle for the speakership and won, but he did not gloat. As he accepted his new post, he praised his predecessor. “I have nothing but aloha for Calvin Say. It’s unfortunate it had to come this way,” he told The Maui News.

Politics is a rough-and-tumble game, and there is a price to pay for being on the losing side. But traditionally after hard fights like the one for the speakership – especially among members of the same Democratic Party – both sides get together and pledge to cooperate for the good of the people.

Souki was nothing but gracious in talking about his opponents in the fight. Let’s hope that tone of civility spreads.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.