HONOLULU — Rep. Ken Ito was removed as chair of a House committee on Wednesday and he says it was his signature on a petition supporting Rep. James Tokioka as Speaker of the House of Representatives that cost him the title.
“Today, I was approached by Speaker of the House of Representatives Scott Saiki, and was informed that I would be removed, effective immediately, from my post as Chair of the House Committee on Veterans, Military &International Affairs, &Culture &the Arts,” Ito said in a statement sent to TGI on Wednesday.
He continued: “I believe the reason for my removal from the VMI committee is purely political. I recently signed a petition supporting Rep. James Tokioka of Kauai as Speaker of the House of Representative, and that was the reason that prompted my removal as Chair of the VMI committee.”
Rep. Scott Saiki and staff members could not be reached for comment.
Tokioka said the goal of the resolution that was circulated that allegedly lost Ito the VMI Chair seat was to get 26 signatures supporting him for Speaker of the House.
“Because he signed that resolution, he was removed (from his position as Chair of VMI Committee),” Tokioka said.
In August, Tokioka was removed from the House Finance Committee after being critical of plans to fund the Honolulu rail project.
“I was going to vote against the rail,” Tokioka said.
Ito said regardless of a position within the VMI committee, he stands by the belief that “we need a change in our current leadership,” and that “Rep. Tokioka represents this important, necessary change for the House.”
“I was unwilling to compromise my loyalty and friendship with Rep. Tokioka, who is Vice-Chair of the VMI Committee,” Ito said. “We must move forward.”
The VMI committee was established in 2013, under the leadership of the late Congressman and former Rep. K. Mark Takai. Ito served as vice-chairman under Rep. Takai from 2013-2014. In 2016, he was made chairman of that committee.
“Veteran and military affairs has always been of great importance to me and my district. I am a veteran, and so are many of our residents,” Ito said. “Our men and women in the armed forces, as well as those who have retired from service should always be a priority, as they have worked to defend and uphold the freedom that we all enjoy.”
Tokioka said he thinks taking on the Speaker of the House position would be “pretty big” for Kauai.
“To have the Senate President and the Speaker of the House come from Kauai, that’s pretty big — the title, the responsibilities, all of that,” Tokioka said.