Am. Samoa Republican Delegates ‘Unbound’ At National Convention

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

Caucus goers not committed to support any one candidate

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, March 24, 2016) – Unlike the last two Republican Party of American Samoa caucuses, in which all nine delegates publicly pledged support for a GOP presidential candidate, this year, the local Party was firm following Tuesday’s caucus that all nine delegates are "unbound" or "uncommitted" heading to the National Republican Convention in July to select a GOP candidate for the US presidential race in November.

Now, the three remaining GOP candidates — businessman Donald Trump, US Sen. Ted Cruz, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich — or their representatives will go after the delegates to pledge support to one of the three men heading into the convention in Cleveland.

During the 2012 caucus all nine delegates of the local Party publicly pledged their support and vote for then GOP candidate Mitt Romney and in the 2008 caucus, the pledge was made to then candidate Sen. John McCain. Democratic President Barack Obama, who is currently serving his last term in office, defeated both GOP candidates.

At Tuesday’s local Party caucus, the nine delegates and nine alternates were identified by name and were affirmed by those in attendance. It was reiterated by Party leaders that the American Samoa delegation is heading to Cleveland "unbound".

However, Congresswoman Aumua Amata Radewagen, who is also the Party’s National Committeewoman told caucus attendees of more than 200, including high school students that, "between now and [July], we’ll be talking with you on how the delegation should vote in Cleveland."

She added that people supporting each candidate "will be pushing their candidate" and both she and Party chairman Utu Abe Malae, a delegate, are asking all delegates to take into consideration comments and information from supporters of the candidates before making their decision as to which candidate to vote for.

The Congresswoman described the caucus an "awesome turnout" and shared that American Samoa has 45 slots at the convention, and all of them— including the alternates— will have a chance to be on the convention floor by rotating people to the floor.

Trump’s local campaign chair, John Raynar, who is also a delegate, told Samoa News at the caucus that he will remain "unbound" as dictated by the local Party, noting that he holds two separate hats — chairman for Trump and also the local Party’s vice chair.

Charles Warren, local chairman of the Ted Cruz campaign and also a delegate, told Samoa News that he would also remain "unbound" at this point.

Both men acknowledged their support for their respective candidates, but will not commit to a candidate for now, and will be talking to local Party members.

During the caucus, Cruz delivered a tape-recorded speech, while the other two candidates had recordings played from interviews with the Samoa Sunrise radio show.

Cruz in his speech, said that if elected to the White House he’ll repeal Obamacare, pass a flat tax, pull back job killing regulations and boost small businesses, thereby creating millions of high paying jobs that will generate trillions in new government revenue "and we will use that revenue to rebuild our military, so that it remains the mightiest fighting force on the face of the planet."

He said, "I salute American Samoa for its proud military tradition. And to all the veterans, soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines, you will once again in January 2017 have a commander-in-chief who has your back."

Cruz notes that the new generation of leaders in the Republican Party will "stand and fight for liberty, stand and fight for the constitution, and stand and fight for... Christian values that built this great nation."

"I ask for your vote in the presidential caucus, so that together we can usher in a new era of freedom, and prosperity and security for American Samoa and our common United States," Cruz said.

Based on the crowd reaction, there appeared to be a lot of Trump supporters — they held posters or wore t-shirts supporting him.

Supporters of the candidates were given a chance to speak about their candidate.

Military veteran Michael Walker, a Trump supporter, told the audience that in the last three elections the Republicans have been weak while the Democrats were strong. "And the Democrats are not showing any type of a strong government," he said and declared that front-runner Democratic candidate "Hillary Clinton is a disease to our nation, [and] she is not what we need..."

"Donald Trump is the only way we’re going to go right now. And I’m ‘Trump for Samoa’," he said.

Unasa Leroy Ledoux said that he would rather support Trump than Clinton or any Democrat. However, he is concerned with Trump’s recent disparaging remarks about women, handicapped people, and Mexicans.

"But if it ends out [that] Trump is our candidate for President, then I will gladly support him," he said, but quickly added, "I’m very scared about the fact that Donald Trump may not be electable in the national election."

Speaking for Kasich was local businessman Bill Maxey, who said, "I realize he doesn’t have much of a chance, but he’s the only adult left in the debate. He’s done a good job in the state of Ohio, he hasn’t been controversial, and I think he deserves at least gratitude" for staying in the race.

Three other Trump supporters — all Samoans — declared that Trump is the best person for the White House. For example, James Mailo said, Trump "speaks for everything that goes against Democratic liberals... and we need to stand up for what America stands for, and that is God First and people First."

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