by Andrew Walden
Hawaii Republican House Minority Leader Aaron Johanson (HD31-Aiea) has switched parties to join the House Democratic caucus. Johanson announced the move at a midday news conference attended by House Speaker Joe Souki and Senate President Donna Mercado Kim.
The eight House Republicans had for the last six weeks been deadlocked 4-4 on whether to reelect Johanson minority leader. Opponents included Reps Ward, McDermott, Tupola, and Pouha. Interviewed by Hawai’i Free Press, Rep Beth Fukumoto Chang says she expects the Republican caucus will now be united and will reorganize quickly.
UPDATE Dec 31: A caucus meeting today elected Rep Beth Fukumoto Chang Minority Leader and Rep Andria Tupola Minority Floor Leader. The caucus is still considering committee assignments.
Johanson had led Republicans in a coalition with House Speaker Joe Souki which saw Republicans receive committee vice Chairmanships in the 2013-14 Legislature. With more Democrats joining Souki’s faction after the November elections, Souki dissolved the coalition.
After Johanson’s departure, Republicans have no net gains in legislative seats from the November elections. Johanson is the latest in a long list of Republican officeholders to switch to Democrat. Newly elected State Senator Gil Riviere served as a House Republican until he was defeated in the 2012 HD47 Republican Primary by Richard Fale. Riviere switched to Democrat and returned the favor, defeating Fale in the 2014 General Election for the Senate seat vacated by Democrat Clayton Hee.
STATEMENT FROM PAT SAIKI REGARDING REPRESENTATIVE AARON JOHANSON’S ANNOUNCEMENT TO JOIN THE DEMOCRAT PARTY
News Release from Hawaii Republican Party, December 29, 2014
HONOLULU (Dec. 29) – Pat Saiki, State Chair of the Hawaii Republican Party, released the following statement after the recent announcement that Representative Aaron Johanson was resigning from the Republican Party to become a Democrat.
“For Representative Johanson to sacrifice his principles for political ambition is disgraceful. He must be a disappointment to the 3,968 residents who entrusted him with their votes less than two months ago.
“A person, especially a politician, is only as good as his word. When the person breaks that word, he can never be trusted.
“It is no secret that running as a Democrat in Hawaii makes life much easier for any politician. However, it takes courage to stand up to the political machine that has dominated island politics since statehood. Representative Johanson now becomes part of that political machine, and he’ll have to fall in line.
“The Republican Party of Hawaii is alive and well, and we’ll continue engaging in heated, passionate debate about ideas and solutions to our State’s most pressing problems.
“Though Representative Johanson has decided to join in support of ‘business as usual’ with the Majority Party, I and tens of thousands of other Hawaii Republicans intend to remain the loyal opposition and keep fighting for a better future for our State.”
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KITV: Republicans, voters react to losing Rep. Aaron Johanson to Democrats
CB: Hawaii State Rep. Johanson Leaves Republican Party, Joins Democrats
KHON: State Rep. Aaron Ling Johanson announces party switch
SA: Souki said there are no immediate changes planned and that Johanson was not promised any leadership position for making the switch.
SA: State representative bolts from Republican party