It’s back to the drawing board for Gov. David Ige as he decides who will lead the state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources.
Ige withdrew his nomination for Carleton Ching Wednesday, just days after he said he was standing by his controversial pick.
The full Senate convened at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday expecting to vote.
But before that happened, state department heads and Ching’s family left and went to the Governor’s office.
After senators met, it was announced: “Governor’s message #545 informs the senate that the Governor has withdrawn his nominee for the chairperson of the Board of Land and Natural Resources from consideration.”
There was no vote and no chance for arguments.
Sen. Sam Slom, R-Hawaii Kai, Aina Haina, said he was disheartened by the governor’s withdrawal.
“I’m afraid in this community we are having less open discussion and while we talk about transparency, we have less transparency,” he said.
Last Thursday, the Senate Committee on Water and Land voted 5-2 not to approve Ching, following a day and a half of testimony, Q&A and discussion.
Thousands of people opposed Ching’s nomination, including activist Walter Ritte. “(He’s a) good person, but not for the environment. So we’re really glad about what happened today.”
Still, the governor thought Ching was going to be confirmed until he heard the votes earlier Wednesday.
At a press conference following the announcement, Ige said, “From my perspective, I did not want to put Carleton or his family through a floor vote if we did not have a majority vote.”
Ching said he’s disappointed, but does not see this move as a setback. “I wanted to serve. That’s why I stepped forward,” he said. “I wanted to serve for this governor and to commit to him and the state so obviously when you walk into a game, you want to win. You never go in wanting to lose.”
Ching did not say what he will do next, but is on paid leave from Castle and Cooke and has the option to return.
The governor said he has not discussed any other opportunities for Ching within his cabinet.
“Do you have anybody in mind for your next nomination or are you literally going to be starting from scratch?” KHON2 asked.
“No, I don’t have anybody in mind so we are starting over and we’ll be looking at names,” Ige said.
In a statement, the Senate said it supported Ige’s withdrawal.
“Considering the sharp debate both among the public and within the Senate, we respect the Governor’s decision to withdraw the nomination,” said Senate Majority Leader, Sen. J. Kalani English, D-7th District.
“Whatever our differences of opinion, this Senate is unified in its duty to make a thoughtful decision that will be good for the state,” he added. “What is evident is that Senators struggled with this nomination because we know that Mr. Ching is a good man and has the skills and ability to be a successful leader. However, we understand this job is a demanding one. We applaud Mr. Ching’s willingness to work in public service and we trust he will find another opportunity to use his knowledge and experience in the future.”