Week 44: Jousting At The Senate

Katherine Poythress/Civil Beat

One of the most dramatic stories to emerge out of the Hawaii Capitol this week had just about all the elements found in a primetime drama: political gamesmanship, testy e-mail exchanges, closed-door emergency caucus meetings and personal insults in which one politician compared another to a farm animal.

William Aila Jr.'s nomination to direct the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources came to a close this week, but not before a series of acrimonious events. And if you really wanted to know what was happening — and what it meant — Civil Beat was the place to find the best coverage of that story.

The central character of the saga was arguably not the nominee, but Sen. Clayton Hee. So on Friday, we ran a profile of Hee by Chad Blair. We reported the astounding Senate floor session where Hee disparaged the controversial but popular nominee, at one point comparing Aila to a castrated horse. This came from a politician who himself campaigned unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2002 by sign-waving from the back of his horse on the corner of Beretania and Punchbowl:

Earlier in the week, when it first became clear that Hee had taken his fight to stall the nomination to a new level, Michael Levine published a story about a series of testy e-mail exchanges between Hee and fellow Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz that called the nominee's qualifications into question:

The rift clearly wore on Senate leadership, with Democrats convening in closed-door caucus to resolve the impasse — and save face for Senate President Shan Tsutsui. On Wednesday, we ran two stories that advanced that issue:

But the fight would not end without one more unexpected turn. On Thursday, the day of Aila's confirmation, the nominee was draped in lei like a high school graduate. Yet Hee still stole the show with one final jab. The local boy from Kahuku took on the local boy from Waianae:

The series of stories were revealing in several ways, showing how the Senate works and how it sets priorities. The stories were said something about the new Senate leadership — would Colleen Hanabusa have allowed so much airing of dirty laundry under her watch? Above all, the stories were an example of a story that Civil Beat told like no one else. It's worth checking them out.


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