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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, February 1, 2008

Hillary gets Samoa's attention

By Lee Cataluna
Advertiser Columnist

StoryChat: Comment on this story

On the one hand, it's confusing. On the other hand, flattering.

On Jan. 26 in a statement after Sen. Barack Obama's decisive win in the South Carolina primary, presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton, in saying she was moving forward, spoke the words that got Pago Pago buzzing:

"We now turn our attention to the millions of Americans who will make their voices heard in Florida and the 22 states as well as American Samoa who will vote on February 5th.

Wait, American Samoa is Super Tuesdaying? How did that happen? That would be even less likely than Hawai'i joining in on the big day, and we know that's not happening here.

Well, its not happening there, either.

Most people in American Samoa can't vote for president. Those born there are U.S. nationals, but not U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens who list their permanent residence in American Samoa, a U.S. territory, can't vote for president. The governor, the representative to Congress and delegates to the national conventions get to cast votes in the presidential election, but their choices have already been declared.

American Samoa Gov. Togiola Tulafono endorsed Clinton as Democratic presidential candidate earlier this month, saying, "I believe in Sen. Hillary Clinton because she talks like one of us, and she inspires confidence, warmth, and trust for all people." Gov. Tulafono is national co-chairman of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders for Hillary.

Three other Samoan delegates to the Democratic National Convention also endorsed Clinton: Chairman of the American Samoa Democratic Party Fagafaga Daniel Langkilde, Samoa Democratic National Committee Members Deanna Fuimaono and Nathaniel Savali. Clinton has been endorsed by former Samoa Party State Chairwoman Oreta Togafau and party Executive Director Clara Reid, both proudly displayed on Clinton's campaign Web site.

Meanwhile, American Samoa Congressman Eni Faleomavaega has announced his support for Obama.

So while Clinton may be grateful she has the majority vote in American Samoa, there isn't much to win.

But in Samoa, as in Hawai'i, just getting mentioned by a presidential candidate is a source of pride.

"Given our general status as a non-entity when it comes to U.S. elections, it's highly bemusing that Hillary would reference us," said James Kneubuhl, of American Samoa Community College. " ... I'm sure many American Samoans will love her just for acknowledging."

Lee Cataluna's column runs Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Reach her at 535-8172 or lcataluna@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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