Hillary Clinton Wins Majority Of Am. Samoa Delegates

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Democratic Party caucuses held; Clinton endorsed by Governor

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, March 2, 106) – Former US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has again won a majority of delegates at the American Samoa Democratic Party caucus beating out rivals US Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and California businessman Roque ‘Rocky’ De la Fuentes — an unknown candidate and not mentioned at all by the national media as a Democratic candidate in the US Presidential race.

The local caucus got underway at 8a.m. yesterday at the Veterans Memorial Center with registration and results were available just after 1p.m. Of the total 237 votes cast, Clinton received 162 votes (68%); Sanders 61 (25%) and De la Fuentes 14 (or about 6%).

It was during the caucus that the local Party firmed up its 11 delegates — which are also American Samoa’s eleven votes at the Democratic National Convention set for July 25-28 in Philadelphia.

Clinton had already received four endorsements — these from Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga, chairman Fagafaga Daniel Langkilde, vice chair Clara Reid and national committeeman Sen. Galeai Tu’ufuli. For Sanders, his advance endorsement came from national committeewoman Theresa Hunkin.

At the caucus, six other delegates were elected and Clinton got four endorsements while Sanders came up with two.

Each candidate also spoke to the local caucus with Clinton via teleconferencing while Sanders and De la Fuentes talked via SKYPE, which encountered minor problems at the beginning. Clinton was the first to address the gathering recalling her visit to American Samoa in 2010 as then Secretary of State saying that she is grateful for the endorsements she has received so far from four Democratic leaders, including Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga.

If elected President, the former First Lady of the United States says that she "will work hard to tear down all the barriers that hold the people of American Samoa back" and to provide better opportunities for the territory.

"I know how hard your economy has been," she said, and promised to work with American Samoa to — among other things, "get more jobs, make college affordable" and to stop the epidemic of substance abuse.

She expressed her thanks to American Samoa’s "great record of serving in the military and to let you know, I will support the men and women who volunteer to serve in our Armed Forces as well as their families."

And she promised, "to have a plan to solve the problems at the Veterans Administration to ensure that everyone who serves gets the support and quality health care and the benefits you have earned, no matter where you live."

In her less than 2-minute teleconferencing call, Clinton says she was honored to earn the support from American Samoa and "I want to work with you to build a bright future."

Sanders said that it’s important that "ordinarily people begin to stand up and fight against corrupt campaign finances... with billionaires buying up elections." Additionally, "I think it’s important that we stand in opposition to a rigged economy in which ordinary people work longer hours at below living wages."

He believes that the US criminal justice system is broken and needs to be fixed, saying that it doesn’t make sense to him that the US has more people in jail than any other country on earth.

Furthermore, "we have also got to address the need for women to get a fair shake in the economy" by getting the salaries they deserve instead of less then their male counter-parts.

Sanders also says that its "wrong in my view, when we have Republicans going around the country telling us that women do not have the right to control their own bodies. It is wrong, when we have Republicans saying that our gay brothers and sisters should not have the right to be married."

He also spoke about education, saying that "when we talk about public education, we’ve got to be talking about making public colleges and universities tuition free," making it easy for all Americans to get a college education.

Another issue dealing with education, he said, "is the outrageous level of student debt that millions of Americans are now experiencing." He said people should not be $50,000 to $100,000 in debt for getting a college education or going to graduate school.

He went on to point out that "our campaign" is about "raising the minimum wage to a living wage, rebuilding our crumpling infrastructure, demanding that the wealthiest people in this country and the largest corporations, start paying their fair share of taxes."

"And what this campaign is also about is recognizing that climate change is real, it is caused by human activity and it’s already causing devastating problems all over the world," Sanders said in his 4-minute speech.

"And that is why the United States has got to work... to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency, to sustainable energy such as solar and wind," he added.

In addressing the caucus, De la Fuentes made clear that he and his children have visited American Samoa and that even his nephew is currently on island. (He didn’t identify his nephew by name, but two of his representatives, including Doug Berquist, arrived last Friday night and attended the caucus.)

"I’ve been on your island. I know your issues, you’re a minority so am I," he said, adding that he knows that the territory does not have high speed Internet, which he also says is too expensive and that is not fair, especially if the territory is part of the United States.

He also spoke on the need for American Samoa to get affordable health care, and better education. He acknowledged that local voters do not know much about him, but "I’m genuine, I’m a business person. I’m not a politician and I will basically bring more tourists to your island."

"I need you as much as you need me. We need to work together. We need to have ideas together. We need to prosper together," he said adding that he is honored to be on the ballot in American Samoa and if elected US President, he promised to visit American Samoa more often.

Earlier in the caucus, Berquist had a chance to address the audience. He first acknowledged that Clinton had been to American Samoa, "but she didn’t leave the airport" unlike "Rocky, who’s been here three times" as a tourist, a businessman, and as a concerned US citizen.

Berquist cited some of the issues of concerns that De la Fuentes wants addressed if elected to the White House and among them "is our health care system. He would like to be able to figure out a way that we can be included into the Obama care, through Hawai’i or through another state so we can co-op that" in order to get better affordable health care.

"Rocky is also very concerned about the educational system not only here but the states. The educational system is not doing very well. In fact in most eyes, it’s failing — failing our kids and we need to do something to turn that around," he said.

Additionally, "Rocky would like to see more local initiative in the educational system so that we have more control over what’s going on and less federal control through mandatory testing," he said, adding that De la Fuentes wants to bring more science and technology to the classroom.

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