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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, July 29, 2004

Praise of crew pleases Island delegates

 •  Edwards pushes 'politics of hope'

By Larry Wheeler
Gannett News Service

BOSTON — Many Hawai'i delegates to the Democratic National Convention are still getting to know John Kerry, and so far they like what they've heard about his leadership skills.

The Hawai'i delegation reads their votes during the roll call at the Democratic National Convention at the FleetCenter in Boston.

Associated Press

At breakfast meetings and on the convention floor, Hawai'i's delegation of enthusiastic Democrats has heard about the Massachusetts senator's abilities. Most impressive have been the testimonials from crew mates Kerry commanded as a young lieutenant conducting river patrols in Vietnam, several delegates said.

"Attend any event where his shipmates are present and you listen to them talk about him — there can be no doubt about the kind of leader he is," said Andrew Levin, 58, of Hilo.

While it isn't surprising that Kerry's Democratic colleagues in the Senate and other party leaders are supportive, his old crew wouldn't be singing his praises as a leader if the compliments weren't sincere, said Levin, managing director for Hilo Mayor Harry Kim.

Edward Hasegawa, 66, a delegate from Honolulu, also has formed a favorable opinion of Kerry's leadership ability from listening to his war buddies.

"My observation is he is compassionate. He showed compassion in his relationship to his troops," said Hasegawa, a retired school administrator.

Hasegawa said he also was impressed by Kerry's ability to connect with those serving under him in Vietnam, even though he was the leader.

"He didn't let that get in the way of his relationship with his men," Hasegawa said.

Cecile Smith, 67, of Hawai'i Kai, might be one of the most skeptical Kerry supporters in the state's delegation. She's a delegate pledged to Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio.

However, Smith, a volunteer, said she's been keeping an open mind and seeking to learn more about Kerry's strengths from her fellow delegates.

"I was talking to a woman in our delegation who supports Kerry and to our Kerry campaign chair, who is a good man, and I trust him," Smith said. "They've been telling me to keep an eye on him."