Donna Mercado Kim named Senate president


HONOLULU — Hawaii Senate Democrats have chosen Donna Mercado Kim to be Senate president, replacing Shan Tsutsui who took over as lieutenant governor.

Senate leadership made the announcement Friday, one day after Tsutsui succeeded Brian Schatz as lieutenant governor.

Kim had served as Senate vice president and recently made an unsuccessful bid to fill the U.S. Senate vacancy created by the death of Daniel Inouye.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie on Wednesday chose Schatz to be Inouye’s successor. In Hawaii, the Senate president is first in line to fill a lieutenant governor vacancy.

The new Senate vice president is Ronald Kouchi. The majority leader is Brickwood Galuteria.

Kim is a former state representative and Honolulu City Council member who has served in the Senate since 2000.

She said in a statement that she was humbled to receive the confidence and support of her colleagues.

In an interview, Kim said she never aspired to this post and was very happy with the Senate lineup that existed before Tsutsui’s departure.

She said she initially asked him not to take the job as lieutenant governor — “selfishly,” she admits — but when it became obvious that a real opportunity had presented itself for Tsutsui, “we had to adjust.”

The Democratic-led Senate said its organization remains mostly intact to allow members continuity in their committee work.

One big change: the areas of emphasis for the Senate Committee on Tourism and Government Operations, which Kim had chaired, will be absorbed by two other committees.

Kim said the committee had been constructed for her and her strengths.

She said having it absorbed by the other committees seemed to be the least disruptive option because “you couldn’t necessarily give it to the new person,” who would still be learning the ways of the Senate, and other senators were already slotted into their committees.

Hawaii Senate leadership, chairs

President: Donna Mercado Kim

Vice president: Ronald Kouchi

Majority leader: Brickwood Galuteria

Assistant majority leader: Michelle Kidani

Majority floor leader: Will Espero

Majority policy leader: Les Ihara Jr.

Majority whips: Gil Kahele, Jill Tokuda

Ways and Means, chair: David Ige

Ways and Means, vice chair: Kidani

Judiciary and Labor, chair: Clayton Hee

Commerce and Consumer Protection, chair: Roz Baker

Agriculture, chair: Clarence Nishihara

Technology and the Arts, chair: Glenn Wakai

Economic Development, Government Operations and Housing, chair: Donovan Dela Cruz

Energy and Environment, chair: Mike Gabbard

Education, chair: Tokuda

Tourism and Hawaiian Affairs, chair: Galuteria

Health, chair: Josh Green

Higher Education, chair: Brian Taniguchi

Human Services, chair: Suzanne Chun Oakland

Public Safety and Military Affairs, chair: Espero

Transportation and International Affairs, chair: J. Kalani English

Water and Land, chair: Malama Solomon

Source: Hawaii Senate