U.S. Republican Candidate Paying Attention To Territorial Issues

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Senator Ted Cruz sends staff to Am. Samoa to campaign for nomination

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Sept. 8, 2015) – US Sen. Ted Cruz, hoping to become the Republican Party candidate in the 2016 presidential election in the US, is deeply concerned with federal cabotage laws which are hindering economic prosperity and tourism development in the Pacific territories, including American Samoa, says Dennis Lennox, a consultant to Cruz’s election campaign.

The Texas senator believes that it’s the people of American Samoa who should decide the issue of US citizenship and not Washington, said Lennox, who arrived early last week in Pago Pago for a two-week "listening tour" following visits to the territories of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas.

Both GOP and Democratic Party members in all five territories — including two in the Caribbean — can vote in local caucuses or conventions to select that party’s nominee for the presidential election. However, the territories can’t vote in US presidential races.

And Lennox is on island to shore up support for Cruz before the local Republican Party Caucus, set for March 22 next year.

Lennox, who departs Pago Pago this Friday, said he is on island as part of a listening tour "across our three valuable and strategically important Pacific territories that too often are ignored by Washington." Additionally, the local GOP caucus next month "is extremely important, and we look forward to earning the votes of the people of American Samoa."

Asked about the importance of the Republican Party votes from the territories in selecting a Republican presidential nominee, Lennox said there are some things that he can’t discuss as they are "internal political strategy" but, added, that all five US territories matter.

"American Samoa matters," he said in a Samoa News interview yesterday. "For far too long American Samoa has been treated like it’s this long forgotten step child or the despised bastard of Washington. And this needs to end."

Lennox pointed out that Cruz sits on the US Senate Armed Services Committee and therefore "understands a lot about the sacrifices that the people of American Samoa— loyal Americans here—have made to serve their country, our country, and he certainly appreciates the loyalty and the deep patriotism of American Samoans."

Referring to his comment, "forgotten step child", Samoa News asked why he thinks it is taking so long for Washington to recognize the needs of American Samoa. He responded that he believes the frustration that American Samoans feel with Washington D.C. is not unlike what mainlanders feel, adding that Washington is ignoring many of the states.

"You talk to state governors and state legislators across the country and we have a federal government that is out of control, that’s not listening, that’s not respecting the constitution, and denying constitutional rights to mainlanders just like it’s denying constitutional rights to American Samoans," he explained.

However, he said, "there needs to be a discussion here about political status and citizenship. But that’s a decision that the people of American Samoa have to make for themselves. Washington can’t decide American Samoa’s future with respect to citizenship and political status. American Samoa has to decide that for themselves."

He quickly added, "and again it has to be the people. It’s time for the people of American Samoa to be heard, and not it’s elected leaders."

Regarding immigration, he said that it is one of the big issues in the US which has been raised on the campaign trail for both GOP and Democratic hopefuls, Lennox said "it’s unfortunate that children of illegal immigrants in the United States get birthright citizenship, but loyal patriotic Americans here in American Samoa, don’t."

"That’s unfortunate, but again that’s part of the discussion, that American Samoans need to have amongst themselves and come up with a consensus as to what they want," he said. "So the immigration problem is a mess and it doesn't make sense. And the perfect logic example is — you have good honest, hard working, loyal, patriotic Americans here on this island and they’re not afforded equal treatment."

Regarding services for veterans, he said this needs to be improved not only in American Samoa but in the other Pacific territories as well.

He also says that there is a serious need to "discuss federal cabotage laws because that needs to go." (Samoa News should point out that ASG for several years has been trying to get cabotage laws waived, which would then allow foreign carriers to operate in and out of American Samoa to other US airports.)

He said cabotage laws are "unfairly penalizing the people of Guam", and "it’s hindering economic development, preventing economic prosperity and it’s stopping any tourist development in American Samoa."

He notes that Hawaiian Airlines — with two weekly flights and "higher air fares than what they should be" — has the monopoly between Honolulu and Pago Pago "because of federal cabotage laws."

"We need a free market when it comes to air transportation" he said, adding that Cruz "is a huge supporter of the free market" because — among other things — it lowers the cost of living here, as well as increases economic prosperity and economic growth, which will result in increased tourism, not just from the mainland. He also said that if neighboring Samoa can do it — referring to its tourism industry — American Samoa certainly can.

Lennox stressed that "American Samoa needs a partner in Washington because Senator Cruz believes that American Samoa should be treated equally and needs to have an equal seat at the table; and it needs a good partner in the White House, not somebody that is going to look down upon it as a second class citizen..."

Asked if Cruz will visit American Samoa if elected US president, Lennox said, he obviously can’t make commitments. He did say, that first, "we have to win the nomination and the road to the nomination is long… And American Samoa will decide the next Republican Party presidential nominee."

Lennox added, "I’m here for two weeks. I don’t know of any campaign, in Republican Party modern history, that has spent two weeks campaigning in American Samoa." Additionally, "we’re committed to earning the votes of hard working loyal American Samoans" during the local GOP caucus next March.

"And if Senator Cruz is honored enough to be the nominee of the Republican Party and is honored by the people of the United States to become President, the people of American Samoa will find a partner in the White House that will respect them, that will pick up the telephone when they call and will treat American Samoa equally like the part of the United States she is," he said.

Samoa News will report later this week on other issues covered with Lennox. Additional information on Cruz can be found at: www.tedcruz.org.

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