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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, January 14, 2010

Soetoro-Ng endorses Schatz

By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Government Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser
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Maya Soetoro-Ng, President Obama's sister, has recorded a message backing Brian Schatz in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor.

Soetoro-Ng said she is supporting Schatz, who helped with Obama's presidential campaign in Hawai'i, because of what she described as his principled, pragmatic ideas and leadership qualities.

"He has quite a bit of intellectual courage and political savvy, both necessary to accomplish and acquire the important things that this state needs," she said in an e-mail interview.

The Schatz campaign plans to release the recorded message by telephone to voters statewide today, and will likely do a radio advertisement later in the campaign.

Soetoro-Ng made appearances for her brother in Hawai'i and on the Mainland during the 2008 presidential campaign, but has otherwise not been publicly involved in politics.

Other than the recording for Schatz, a friend, she said she does not plan to have a role in local political campaigns. She also said her support for Schatz is a personal decision that has nothing to do with Obama, who is not mentioned in the recording.

"Although I did support other local Democratic candidates and the Democratic Party of Hawai'i in general while campaigning for my brother, I do not wish to continue to be involved in political campaigning," she said. "I prefer to make my contributions to society through education."

Soetoro-Ng and her husband, Konrad Ng, have returned to the Islands from Washington, D.C., where Ng spent a semester as a visiting scholar at the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program.

Soetoro-Ng, a former teacher a La Pietra Hawai'i School for Girls, said her plans are to complete a book on peace education, build her national nonprofit on public education, help other nonprofits on which she serves as a board member, and raise a family.

Her time in Washington, she said, "allowed us to be near my family at a time when our family was recovering from the loss of our Tutu and experiencing so much that was new. Washington, D.C. was a welcome temporary home for us, but Hawai'i is our permanent residence and our heart's sanctuary."

Madelyn Dunham, Obama and Soetoro-Ng's grandmother, died in November 2008.

Schatz, a former Democratic Party of Hawai'i chairman and Makiki state representative, said Soetoro-Ng's support is a boost for his campaign.

"A lot of people have tremendous aloha for Maya, and having her support means a lot for me personally," Schatz said in an e-mail. "It's also a great boost to our growing campaign."

State Senate Majority Leader Gary Hooser, D-7th (Kaua'i, Ni'ihau), a progressive who, like Schatz, strongly supported Obama for president, said several candidates for lieutenant governor may be able to attract celebrity endorsements.

"Ultimately, the only endorsement that matters is the vote of the people in September," he said.

The field for the primary also includes state Sen. Robert Bunda, D-22nd (North Shore, Wahiawä); state Sen. Norman Sakamoto, D-15th (Waimalu, Airport, Salt Lake); state Rep. Jon Riki Karamatsu, D-41st (Waipahu, Village Park, Waikele); and state Rep. Lyla Berg, D-18th (Kuli'ou'ou, Niu Valley, 'Äina Haina).