Candidates families campaign in Hawaii

Published 11:50 pm Sunday, February 17, 2008

HONOLULU (AP) — Chelsea Clinton munched chili at a popular Hawaiian restaurant Saturday while urging hundreds of enthusiastic supporters to vote for her mother in the upcoming Democratic presidential caucus.

On the island of Maui, Maya Soetoro-Ng asked about 200 people gathered at a luncheon to vote for her half brother, Sen. Barack Obama.

Party caucuses for presidential candidates in Hawaii typically get little attention because of the state’s small number of voters.

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But this year’s tight Democratic race has forced the candidates to pay particular attention to the islands’ 29 delegates — including 20 selected by party rank-and-file.

Neither Hillary Rodham Clinton nor Honolulu-born Obama were able to fly to the islands to campaign in person ahead of Tuesday’s caucus. But their relatives have been actively seeking votes here on their behalf.

More than 100 people waited outside Zippy’s restaurant to greet the former first daughter.

Clinton, 27, politely posed for photos and signed autographs for more than a dozen people as she waded through the crowd. She then sampled the vegetarian chili and a side-order of vegetables.

‘‘I don’t think Obama has issues, he’s just hype, hype, hype,’’ said Karen Wong, a 62-year-old former registered nurse who joined the throng at Zippy’s. ‘‘What is hope and change if you don’t have any solutions, right?’’

Clinton didn’t give any speeches or talk to media during her whirlwind tour of Honolulu, which started at 7:30 a.m. at the Kapiolani Community College farmer’s market.

She seemed seemed to be shadowed throughout the day by Obama supporters. At Zippy’s, a van with a big white sheet scrawled with an Obama slogan was parked in front of the restaurant.

University of Hawaii political science major Scott Alonso, 21, and a friend held Obama signs and cheered loudly as the ‘‘Hawaii for Hillary Trolley’’ left the school’s campus for a tour of area neighborhoods.

Alonso said he thought people from Hawaii supported Obama both because he’s from here and because of his ideas.

‘‘His ideas really speak to what Hawaii is about. You know — unity, a positive vision, being optimistic about the future,’’ Alonso said. ‘‘Everyone’s really tight-knit here, the ohana (family) spirit. So I think Barack understands that because he’s from here.’’

Soetoro-Ng told the Obama crowd at Maui Tropical Plantation that she’s not ‘‘taking anything for granted’’ for Tuesday’s caucus and she hopes voters will turn out for her brother, the Maui News reported.

‘‘I want to emphasize my brother loves these islands. He loves these islands with every fiber of his being,’’ Soetoro-Ng said.