Saturday, October 17, 2015

Faleomavaega May Try Congress By Proxy

This blog has had one purpose over the years: to expose the truth about Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin in an effort to drive him from office. With his defeat last year in an attempt to win a 14th term, we put this blog into mothballs. Living in Utah in retirement, when he took down his Facebook Page earlier this year we were more confident than ever that he would not attempt a comeback and this conclusion was reinforced by his special trip here for Flag Day, at which it was obvious that his health had not improved since election day 2014. How could it? He has diabetes, heart disease and kidney failure. All are chronic illnesses from which recovery is not expected and he is too old to risk a kidney or heart transplant.

So when he quickly departed after Flag Day, we were ready to consign this blog to the dust bin of history until we started to hear talk around the island that Faleomavaega's sister, Vaitunasa Salu Hunkin-Finau is prepared to make a bid to return the office to family hands. We have no indication of what the two siblings discussed while Eni was on island but have no doubt it would have included the next congressional race. Our own belief is that at some point Eni would have told her he would not be a candidate and encouraged her to take on the woman who beat him.

We make no judgment on the performance of Eni's successor but it is unlikely that he could transfer to Vaitunasa his western district power base, which completely collapsed on him last year. For years he had done poorly in the east and never has won Manu'a but always made up for it with massive margins in the vote rich districts of Fofo and the Tualauta, home to many of the members of the territory's Mormon Church to which church he belongs and, of course, the home of the vast Hunkin family clan, regardless of faith.

Matthew Hunkin, a young Englishman born in Cornwall in 1815, came to Tutuila in 1836 at age 21 and settled in the village of Leone, where two years later he married a member of the Malala family and lived for 43 years until he died in 1879. The Hunkins had seven children but only one emigrated elsewhere. All of the many Samoans who carry the Hunkin surname are descended from one of Matthew's three remaining sons and there are many more descended from the three Hunkin daughters who carry the blood if not the name.  So it is a huge vote base on an island where family ties are still important in voting habits.

However, when Faleomavaega won his final victory in 2012 with his usual large margins, that voter base at the same time did not transfer to his sister, who was on the ballot running for governor. Indeed, she finished a poor fourth or fifth in the traditional Hunkin strongholds and wound up with only 6.8 percent of the total vote territory-wide. So the first question that has to be asked is where is her base?  There may have been resistance to voting for two close members of the same family for territory wide office but her votes totals were so much lower than his in the family districts that it could not be a major reason for her dismal showing.

In the absence of a reliable base, perhaps she is banking on her personal qualities or professional performance. If so, she is delusional. She has none of her brother's easy going personality, which carried him far with the voters during his career. Moreover, she has no track record on which to build. In the 2012 gubernatorial election voters undoubtedly recalled that she had been fired as president of the community college. Nonetheless, after the election Governor Lolo made her his director of education (which does not oversee the college) perhaps in hopes she would not run against him again in 2016. 

But her tenure at DOE has been less than spectacular, marked by school buildings not ready for students at the beginning of the school year, book shortages, teacher shortages caused by low salaries for some and others who just did not want to work for her any more and troubles with federal grant management. School buses have been idled for lack of fuel and her disastrous decision to combine all the high school graduating classes for one ceremony was so unpopular that it had to be reversed by the governor, publicly humiliating her in the process.

So, we see no rationale for her candidacy, but then again there have been other perennial candidates like Tuika Tuika and Rosie Lancaster who have had little or no support at the ballot box yet run again and again, so who knows?

While this blog is devoted to making sure Faleomavaega does not occupy the congressional seat ever again, we are expanding our scope to include his sister to make sure he does not occupy it by proxy, either. We have plenty to say about Vaitunasa and more to dig up but will hold our fire until we see if a candidacy really develops. For now, Salu, let us just say that your don't want to run for office again, you really don't. Trust us.

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