Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Togiola Upstages Faleomavaega with Hillary Clinton

Following his recent re-election, Faleomavaega decided to stick around the island for awhile, because Secretary of State was due through for a refueling stop on the final leg of her recent trip through Asia.  Faleomavaega, of course, is still chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific until January 3, 2011, when he will lose that post as his party sinks into the minority in Congress.  According to press reports, Faleomavaega used the little time he has with Clinton during her 90 minute stop to raise the matter of the Cambodian war debt while Governor Togiola stuck to issues of much more concern to American Samoa.  He was able to extract out of the secretary a promise to look into allowing American Samoa to have observer membership in the Pacific Islands Forum, a desire that every American Samoa governor has had going back to Peter Coleman.   He also asked her to devise a means to allow American Samoa to participate in U.S. policy making on APEC issues, especially fisheries.

Some observers believe this may be the opening salvo in a 2012 congressional campaign that would pit the two men against each other.  Togiola is term limited and cannot run for governor again.  Even though Faleomavaega has won 12 times, Togiola knows he remains vulnerable.  While all the other delegates to Congress long since have consolidated their constituencies, Faleomavaega consistently has had reasonably close races in good Democrat years and bad.   This was a bad year for Democrats but he had his subcommittee chairmanship and seniority to argue for another term.  Now he loses the gavel and probably his vote in the Committee of the Whole.  There also is a real possibility Republicans will abolish the Natural Resources subcommittee on insular affairs.

From his perch as governor, expect Togiola over the next two years to set up situations where he can emphasize how little Faleomavaega has actually accomplished in Congress for American Samoa and, as he did with the Clinton visit, show how he concerns himself with American Samoa issues while Eni is still focused on Asia.  I am sure it did not hurt this time that Togiola was an early Clinton supporter in the 2008 presidential primaries while Faleomavaega was an early Obama backer.  So far, Faleomavaega's Obama connection has gotten him nothing out of the Obama administration.   Stay tuned.

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