Maui Election

Senate Majority Leader, J. Kalani English of Maui to Retire Due to “Long-Haul” COVID-19 Effects

April 27, 2021, 10:01 AM HST
* Updated April 29, 8:22 AM
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Senate Majority Leader, J. Kalani English. Courtesy photo.

Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English today announced his retirement from the Hawaiʻi State Senate, effective on May 1, 2021, citing long-term effects of COVID-19.

He said the decision came after many discussions with his doctors, talks with those close to him, and careful thought.

According to Sen. English, he contracted COVID-19 while with family out of Hawai‘i in late November 2020. “My symptoms were mild and I did not physically suffer at the time of infection from the virus, unlike many of our friends and family. I was grateful to have healed,” he said in a statement issued today.

“Upon my return to Hawai‘i, I noticed a change in my energy, pervasive lethargy, memory challenges and a fogginess in my thought process,” said Sen. English. “I was not sure what to make of the challenges and thought I was suffering from depression or issues related to depression.”

“Having been deemed a long hauler,” Sen. English said he was diagnosed with long-term effects of COVID-19. “My new normal will require me to address some of the challenges left to my short and long-term memory and other cognitive issues derived from this virus. These challenges have placed a number of things into perspective for me, including the need to take better care of my health.”

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The legislative leader and lifelong resident of Hāna, Maui, was first elected to the Hawaiʻi State Senate in 2000. Prior to that, he served as a member of the Maui County Council from 1997–2000 and is a graduate of the Kamehameha School, Hawaiʻi Loa College and the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.

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In his current capacity, he represents the District 7, which includes Hāna, East and Upcountry Maui, Molokaʻi and Lānaʻi.

“I have been blessed to give back to the communities that have reared and nurtured me – it will be a daunting task to walk away from 25 years of service to my island home. I want to thank my colleagues in the Hawai‘i State Senate and the Hawai‘i House of Representatives – in particular to the Maui delegation for bettering our home. I also want to thank the countless number of friends and family on Maui, Molokaʻi and Lānaʻi who have supported me as a member of the Maui County Council and the Hawaiʻi State Senate,” said Sen. English.

“I would not have been able to do any of this without my staff over the years and it is my hope that in leaving, together we have made Maui Nui and Hawai‘i better,” he said.

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Over the course of his legislative career, Senator English worked tirelessly to secure over $2 billion in funding for the rural communities of Hāna, East and Upcountry Maui, Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi and Kahoʻolawe.

He also successfully championed a number of bills (that were signed into law) relating to Hawaiian culture, the environment, transportation and energy.

One of Senator English’s lasting legacies is the Hawaiʻi Climate Change Mitigation and Adaption Commission (Hawaiʻi Climate Commission). He introduced the measure that created the climate commission while simultaneously aligning Hawaiʻi’s climate policies with the principles and goals set forth in the Paris Climate Agreement. This landmark measure was signed into law by Governor David Ige on June 8, 2017 and made Hawaiʻi the first state in the nation to enact legislation implementing portions of the Paris Agreement.

In accordance with State law, Democratic Party officers from the fifteen precincts in Senate District 7 will convene to identify three names that will be transmitted to Governor David Ige for consideration. The Governor has 60 days to fill the vacancy.

Dignitaries and Colleagues Comment on the Retirement Announcement

Governor David Y. Ige commented on the news saying, “I had the privilege of working with Sen. English for about 14 years in the Hawai‘i State Senate. He has proven to be a dedicated public servant who has improved the quality of life for the people of Maui and across the state. Sen. English was also known as an Ambassador to the Pacific, using his advanced degrees in Pacific Island Studies to do what he could to help those in need in the broader Pacific. On behalf of the State of Hawai‘i, I extend my deepest gratitude to Sen. English for his 25 years of service. Dawn and I wish him good health and the very best in all of his future endeavors. Sen. English will be greatly missed at the Hawai‘i State Capitol.”

Senate President Ronald D. Kouchi (Senate District 8 – Kauaʻi and Niʻihau) issued a statement on the retirement of Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English saying:

“During my time here in the Senate, I have come to know Senator English as both a colleague and a friend. As a fellow neighbor-island Senator, I’ve always admired his passion and dedication toward bettering his community. His 25 years of public service will leave a lasting impact on Maui Nui and the entire State. While his presence and leadership here at the State Capitol will be missed, I wish him the best of health and look forward to many more years of continued friendship.” 

Representative Lynn DeCoite (House District 13 – Haʻikū, Hāna, Kaupō, Kīpahulu, Nāhiku, Pāʻia, Kahoʻolawe, Lānaʻi, Molokaʻi and Molokini) also issued a statement today saying:

“Over his 25 years in elected office, Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English has been a dedicated leader and public servant for the people of Maui Nui.  As his constituent, I would see him fighting for his whole district making sure each area and island was looked after.  In my time serving with him at the State Capitol I’ve gotten know him as a colleague, mentor and lifelong friend.   Over the past few years, we really became teammates working together to benefit our district, we’d decide which of us would take the lead on different issues and check in with each other on the progress and get the other involved when it was time. 

His tenure in public office has benefited us all, there are countless programs and projects that happened because of his leadership and involvement.

As Senator English embarks on his next journey, I wish him well and look forward to a continued friendship.  He truly leaves big shoes to fill.”

Mayor Michael Victorino issued a statement saying: “Following today’s announcement about the unexpected retirement of State Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English, I want to publicly express my appreciation for his many years of public service as an elected official. 

“I regret the loss of his leadership and steadfast commitment to the people of Hawaii. He has faithfully represented the interests of those in his district, the residents of Maui Nui, all citizens of Hawaii and beyond. He has shined as Hawaii’s informal and admired ambassador to multiple Pacific nations. 

“I am sorry to learn that health challenges have hastened his retirement, but now he can fully recover in his beloved hometown of Hāna. On behalf of the people of Maui County, mahalo pumehana to Senator J. Kalani English.”

Statement of Democratic Party of Hawaiʻi on the Retirement of Senator J. Kalani English and Information on Prospective Vacancy

“As Majority Leader, Senator J. Kalani English worked diligently to shape the State Senate’s priorities and helped to advance our Democratic Party’s goals on sustainability, climate action, quality education, and many more key issues. As a Native Hawaiian and as the Former President of the Association of Pacific Islander Legislatures, he has been influential in promoting partnerships and understanding with our fellow islanders across the Pacific. We wish him all the best in his next chapter,” said Tyler Dos Santos-Tam, Chair of the Democratic Party of Hawaiʻi.

Hawaii Revised Statutes Section 17-3(a) establishes the process to fill a vacancy in the membership of the State Senate for a member whose term ends at the next succeeding general election:

“The governor shall make an appointment within sixty calendar days following the first day of vacancy to fill the vacancy for the unexpired term by selecting a person from a list of three prospective appointees submitted by the same political party as the prior incumbent.  The appointee shall be at the time of appointment, and for at least six months immediately prior to the appointment, a member of the political party.  The appointee shall, at the time of appointment, be a resident of the same senate district as the prior incumbent.  The political party shall submit the list of prospective appointees to the governor within thirty calendar days following the first day of vacancy.”

The Democratic Party of Hawaiʻi Constitution, Article VIII, Section 9(2) establishes that “the respective officers of the Precinct Clubs and District Councils affected shall select the candidates if the vacancy is for an office representing a State Senate District.

In this instance, these are the officers of all Precinct Clubs and the District Councils within House Districts 12 and 13.

The Democratic Party of Hawaiʻi Bylaws, Article IX, Section 5 further establishes that these officers shall “make a call for candidates who are members in ‘good standing,’”and that “a list of at least three (3) names shall be provided to the County Chair to transmit to the Party Chairperson within twenty-one (21) calendar days. The Party Chairperson shall transmit the list of names to the Governor’s Office within three (3) business days of receipt of names.

A formal call for candidates will be issued soon. Pursuant to the DPH Bylaws, the call for candidates will include information on an application illustrating a candidate’s credentials and reasons for consideration for appointment to the position; evidence of party participation; and verified signatures of at least five (5) party members within the District.

The Maui County Committee of the Democratic Party of Hawaii will organize the proceedings for the mid-term replacement of Sen. English. 

“I am saddened by the announcement to retire bySenator English, who I have worked with for more than 25 years from the time he served on the Maui County Council to his present role as Senator at the Hawai’i State Legislature,  He has served us well and we will misshis dedication to not only District 7 but to all of Hawai’i nei.  Kalani is a friend and a mentor, I wish him well on his healing journey,” said Stephanie Ohigashi, Chair of Maui County Committee
Democratic Party of Hawai’i.

The process to replace Senator English will be coordinated by the officers of House District 12 and District 13, which are within State Senate District 7. The rules of the Mid-Term Replacement process includes that the applicants be certified members of the Democratic Party of Hawai’i for a minimum of six months.

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