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Wednesday, March 6, 2024
'My Vote is for Sale' -- How Biden Lost the American Samoa Democratic Caucus
By Selected News Articles @ 5:57 PM :: 2043 Views :: Democratic Party, Ethics


(EDITOR’s NOTE: The American Samoa Democratic Presidential Caucus held Tuesday March 5, 2024, resulted in this season’s only defeat for Joe Biden.  Unknown Joe Palmer won 51 votes to Biden's 40.  Each candidate will receive three of American Samoa’s six delegates to the Democratic National Convention.)

from ABCDEF Group Blog, March 6, 2024

It has been three-and-a half years since we last published, but yesterday's "Super Tuesday" elections, which once again drew disproportionate and unwanted attention to American Samoa, beg for commentary. 

Readers will recall that the American Samoa Democrat Party presidential caucus in 2020 awarded to ex-New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg four delegates to the party's national convention and two to native daughter Rep.Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI).  Support for the eventual nominee, Joe Biden, was nowhere to be seen.  Bloomberg pulled out of that race the next day after having spent $2 million dollars to gain the only delegates he received that year.  Gabbard also eventually pulled out of the race, left Congress, eventually also pulled out of the Democrat Party and currently is on the short list for running mate for Donald Trump.

Then-party chairman Tama Sotoa, who presided over the caucus, was relieved of his post and replaced by Ti'a Reid, whose credentials for the chairmanship were being the mastermind of his Uncle Eni Faleomavaega's defeat for re-election six years earlier after 26 years in office as the territory's lone delegate to Congress.  Reid then went on two years later to manage the campaign of his mother, Salu Hunkin Finau, to unseat the woman who defeated her brother Eni.  Despite having a territory-wide network of supporters from her service as the government's director of education and an emotional radio appeal from her brother, Hunkin went on to massive defeat.  Undaunted, Reid's next job was to run the Bloomberg campaign, which earned him the nickname Ti'a "My Vote Is For Sale" Reid.

Despite the national backlash from ignoring the Biden candidacy, Reid, unlike Sotoa, nevertheless remained as chairman and was in place supervising this year's caucus held yesterday.  So, what did he learn from the mistakes of 2020?  Apparently nothing. 

Once again, American Samoa post-Super Tuesday is the laughingstock of the country for ignoring Biden, only this time Biden is the sitting president seeking re-nomination.  Indeed, Biden went on last night to sweep the primaries and caucuses in 15 states, but it is American Samoa that stands out.  To make matters worse, one national media outlet today in a screaming headline noted that Biden was the first incumbent president in 44 years to lose a primary contest.

So why has the caucus given a lift to Governor Lemanu's two announced opponents for governor this November? Because not only is the hapless Reid chairman of the American Samoa Democrat Party, he also is the senior policy adviser to the governor.  It can be expected that any help Lemanu might seek from the Biden White House to aid his own campaign is going to be slow-walked.  Whether or not Lemanu, also a Democrat, was behind Biden's caucus defeat at the hands of unknown Jason Palmer, it is bound to be perceived that way in Biden's Washington.  Political appointees at the Department of the Interior, which oversees American Samoa, also are likely to feel some heat for letting the situation get out of hand.

To make matters worse, Reid held the caucus in a government building during working hours which, if not a violation of federal rules that govern presidential contests, is at best ethically suspect.  Assuming the party did not pay the government for the use of the facility, at a minimum the ethics of holding the balloting there are questionable. 

There is so much other national news to report today, Reid should consider himself lucky if no national media outlet picks up on his ineptitude.  He will be lucky if it doesn't cost him his job with the governor, who already has two credible opponents, with more possibly to come. 

Give credit to Samoa News, which ran a story prior to the caucus noting that the local Republican Party declined an invitation to come to the caucus, which was labeled a "civic event" that brought school children out of their classrooms to witness, on the grounds that the location in a government building might be a violation of federal rules that could subject Republicans to a fine if not worse. 

No indication this early if someone intends to file a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, but one of Lemanu's opponents very well could, especially the one who had a thirty-year federal government career before returning home to run for governor.  He knows the rules.

American Samoa will survive this episode, as it did four years ago, and whatever else went wrong for Reid, at least the expenses of the Palmer delegates to the August national convention in Chicago are probably being paid by the Palmer campaign.  And so it goes.


AP: The Democrat who defeated Biden in American Samoa caucus

2015: “Entire American Samoa school system must be revamped”

2016: Ethics? UH Dean Endorses American Samoa Congressional Candidate on UH Letterhead

2016: Ethics: UH Dean Fined for “Improper Use of State Resources for Campaign Purposes” in American Samoa Congressional Race


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