Sunday, October 31, 2004
Gore gets lei before VP does
By Derrick DePledge
The Honolulu Advertiser
Former Vice President Al Gore swept into Hawaii Friday night for a rally and Filipino concert on Oahu, telling Democrats that Hawaii voters could make the difference in whether Sen. John Kerry is elected president.
Gore, wearing lei and a barong, spoke to a loud, overflow crowd of more than 1,000 people at the Farrington High School auditorium, describing Kerry as a decorated combat veteran and an experienced lawmaker who would be a more effective leader than President Bush.
"Hawaii may very well have the deciding voice in picking the next president," Gore said.
Alexandra Kerry, the candidate's older daughter, greeted the audience with an "aloha" and a "mabuhay (the Philippine equivalent)."
"My father cares a great deal about your community," she said.
U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, had been planning the concert for weeks as part of his re-election campaign, but the appearances by Gore and Alexandra Kerry were arranged quickly over the past few days by national Democrats after polls showed Hawaii was a battleground state.
The event was aimed at motivating the Democratic faithful. But the party also wanted to attract Filipinos who might be turning to Bush.
The Advertiser's Hawaii Poll found that Filipinos interviewed favored the president over Kerry 56 percent to 30 percent, with 14 percent undecided.
Flor Martinez, a businessman and community leader, said many Filipinos are conservatives but have backed Democrats here because of union ties and the belief that the party better reflects the immigrant experience.
"It embodies the aspirations of our community," Martinez said. "I know that in their hearts, they know that. But right now, it's half and half for president. And many people are keeping it to themselves who they are going to vote for."
Hawaii Republicans, meanwhile, prepared for a visit tonight from Vice President Dick Cheney.
Gov. Linda Lingle flew to the Big Island for a campaign swing for Bush and state Republican candidates in Kona.
Lingle said she hoped the Cheney visit would improve Republican turnout and reach new or undecided voters. Two Hawaii newspaper polls this month showed Bush and Kerry in a dead heat in a state where a Republican presidential candidate has not won in two decades.
Kerry, while campaigning in Florida, spoke to Hawaii television stations Friday and said he would be better than Bush on health care, the economy and the war in Iraq. He said he would work to allow the re-importation of cheaper prescription drugs from Canada, target tax cuts to the middle class, and get more countries to provide support to U.S. forces in Iraq.
Many Democrats said they were surprised the race was so tight. Lori Richardson, the director of philanthropy at The Nature Conservancy, described the election as the most important of her lifetime. "I'm hoping the polls were just a blip that has gotten everyone nervous," Richardson said.
Gore, who was swarmed by well-wishers outside the school, was careful to mention that Kerry supports greater benefits for Filipino veterans of World War II and a Native Hawaiian federal recognition bill that would create a process for sovereignty. Bush has not taken a position on the recognition bill, and Republicans point out that Kerry only mentioned it publicly this month.
The former vice president, who beat Bush handily in Hawaii four years ago, referred several times to the fractious end to the 2000 election that was ultimately settled by the U.S. Supreme Court. "I don't want the Supreme Court to pick the next president," Gore said, "and I don't want this president to pick the next Supreme Court."
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