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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Hawaiian Democrats support Hirono

By James Gonser
Advertiser Staff Writer

A group of Hawaiian Democrats said yesterday the Hawaiian community would be better off with Mazie Hirono as the next governor because Hirono has shown support for Hawaiian causes and has a plan to negotiate a settlement over ceded lands.

At a press conference at Democratic headquarters yesterday, Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee Clayton Hee, former Hawai'i Supreme Court Justice Robert Klein and attorney Bill Meheula said Hirono has spelled out what she will do for Native Hawaiians in her first 100 days in office.

According to Hirono, she will go to Washington to advocate personally for the passage of the Akaka bill, which would extend the kind of federal recognition afforded to American Indian and Alaskan tribes to Hawaiians; appoint a Native Hawaiian liaison in the governor's office; and establish a team to negotiate a ceded lands settlement and introduce a new bill to establish standards for the settlement of ceded lands claims.

According to Lingle's campaign booklet, "A New Beginning for Hawai'i," she will lobby the Bush administration on behalf of Hawaiian rights; implement self-determination as mandated by a vote of Hawaiian people; distribute Hawaiian homestead lands within five years; and reinstate the claims review panel to resolve homestead land claims.

Lingle has said that as a Republican, she stands a better chance of getting White House support for the Akaka bill.

Ceded lands are nearly 2 million acres of former crown and government lands transferred to the state under the 1959 Admission Act, to be held in trust for public benefits, including improving the lives of Hawaiians. The amount the state owes to Hawaiians is the subject of a lengthy court battle.

"Support for Akaka bill itself is enough reason for Native Hawaiians to support Democrats," Hee said. "Democrats stood by Native Hawaiians. Republicans have not."

James "Duke" Aiona, the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, said Democrats are simply looking to "drive a wedge" between Hawaiians and the Republican ticket.

"This is a time for Hawaiians and Native Hawaiians to unite for justice," Aiona said in an e-mail response to questions.

Aiona said despite having influential representation in Congress, Democrats have not been able to gather enough support to pass the Akaka bill.

"It is my firm belief that the Lingle/Aiona team is the only way to break the deadlock," Aiona said.