Op-Ed: Voters choice
The Lolo and Lemanu campaign has unofficially adopted a new slogan, “Unite for Change” as it seeks to woo voters who cast their ballots on November 6 for one of the four candidates that fell short in their bid to be the next governor.
The Lolo Facebook page states, “If you are serious about CHANGE, you will join our Movement for CHANGE.”
The Faoa campaign, on the other hand has embraced change “for the better” and following the November 6 vote, posted this on their Facebook page: “We will not relax until we have reached our goal. What is that goal? A forward looking government, one that honors the pledges of rights and freedoms and the pursuit of happiness, under our Constitution; a government that operates in transparency, values moral character and integrity in its leaders, and is accountable to the people. We want a government that will not be shy from making changes for the better; a government that is prepared to deliver the means of meeting requirements of modern life styles; while honoring our cherished customs and traditions.”
The Faoa campaign advises that “it is time to seriously ask which of the two (remaining candidates) can you trust to lead our government, and be a father to all of our people?”
The Lolo and Lemanu committee, or the candidates themselves, have reached out to all four of the teams that lost.
On Monday, three of those candidate teams formally endorsed Lolo and Lemanu. Save and Sandra announced later on Monday that they would not be endorsing any candidate for the November 20 election (see separate story).
Mathematically, the endorsement that matters the most is that of Afoa Lutu and the Afoa/Le’i committee. That is because Afoa received 2522 votes on November 6, more than the other three losing candidates combined.
According to Afoa, more than 200 Afoa/Le’i committee members attended a special meeting last Friday to discuss “what now?” He said everyone was invited to address the gathering and five or six leaders spoke in favor of endorsing Lolo, because they wanted a change in the administration and that is why they had been supporting Afoa, who was a “candidate of change” in their view.
Le’i asked the group if anyone was opposed to endorsing Lolo and nobody did. Le’i then asked the group if they agreed on the candidates and their committee endorsing Lolo and Lemanu, and the group unanimously agreed (although some people characterized Lolo as “the lesser of two [undesirable choices].)”
At that point, Afoa addressed the committee for the first and only time in the meeting, to thank them for their support and for their choice to endorse Lolo, and he said he accepted their decision.
Afoa and Le’i told Samoa News that a vast majority of the 2522 voters who voted the Afoa/Le’i ticket on November 6 will follow the endorsement recommendation of the candidate and their committee on November 20.
If that is accurate, simple math dictates that it would be difficult for Faoa to prevail on November 20.
Here’s why: Lolo and Faoa were almost in a dead heat on November 6, with Lolo outpolling Faoa 4372 to 4315. The vote tallies for the losing candidates on November 6 were:
• 2522 for Afoa/Le’i
• 893 for Salu/Savusa
• 763 for Save/Sandra
•189 for Jones/Tuika
If just 50% of the Afoa, Salu, Save and Jones voters turn out to vote, and vote for Lolo, he will win.
Having said that, endorsements have not always had definitive impact in American Samoa.
THE VETERAN VOTE
In the November 6 election, five of the six teams included a military veteran. Only the Faoa/Taufete’e team lacked a vet on the ticket. In the runoff, the remaining veteran candidate is Lolo’s running mate, Lemanu Mauga, who was 23 years in the military and retired as a Major in the Army (he started his service as an enlisted man in the Marines). After retiring, he returned to the territory and served locally as head of Instruction for American Samoa’s JROTC program.
To the extent that veterans were attracted by the presence of accomplished vets on the other tickets (Save, Savusa, and Le’i are all retired as officers ), the Lolo and Lemanu team can expect support from that quarter.
Regarding rumors that Afoa has been promised the post of Attorney General by Lolo, should Afoa support him and should Lolo win, Afoa told Samoa News that he told Lolo and Lemanu that he (Afoa) planned to ask Maoputasi if he could serve as the Senator from Fagatogo/Utulei/ Fagaalu.
Lolo responded by saying that he (Lolo) wanted Afoa to help his administration, if elected, by serving as AG. Afoa, who served as AG in the first Lutali administration alongside Lolo who was then Budget Director, agreed to consider the possibility.
Afoa told Samoa News that the offer was not communicated to his committee last Friday, and that he still wants to ask Maoputasi if they would give him their blessings to enter the Senate. However, he did not rule out taking up Lolo on his request to serve as AG in a Lolo administration.
“Where can I be most effective? That is the question I will ask myself at the appropriate time,” Afoa shared with Samoa News.
As for a report that Le’i had been offered the post of Commissioner of Public Safety if Lolo wins, Afoa said he was unaware of any such offer, and it was never mentioned at the Committee meeting.
Le’i told Samoa News that he is supporting Lolo because he believes there needs to be a change in adminIstration. He said that “everything is not fine” in American Samoa, contrary to the message of the Faoa/Taufetee camp, and that is why he is backing Lolo.