CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader waited yesterday evening for a news conference to begin before campaigning in the Art Building Auditorium at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
Rivals snub isles, Nader says
The presidential candidate speaks at UH and voices support for the Akaka Bill
Independent presidential candidate and consumer advocate Ralph Nader, appearing in Honolulu yesterday, called on both major-party candidates to come to Hawaii to speak directly with voters.
The 74-year-old spoke last night before more than 200 people at the University of Hawaii-Manoa campus. The campaign collected $5 and $10 donations and sold campaign buttons and bumper stickers.
In a news conference before the speech, Nader said Hawaii voters are being marginalized by the major candidates.
"When political candidates do not campaign in a state, voter turnout suffers," Nader said, adding that he has campaigned in all 50 states in the last two elections.
Nader said he supports the Akaka Bill and native Hawaiian rights, and said Hawaii should be a model for the rest of the country in renewable energy.
"This is the only place in the world where every form of renewable energy occurs," he said.
Nader also said that if elected he would push for universal health care, an increase in the minimum wage to $10 an hour and the repeal of what he called the anti-union Taft-Hartley Act.
"Obama sounds more like McCain every day," said Nader supporter Mary Fackrell. "Maybe it (Nader's candidacy) will change the discussion."
To get on the Hawaii ballot this year, Nader created a new political party -- the Independent Party of Hawaii -- and his campaign said they submitted 2,155 signatures to be on the ballot. Previously Nader ran as a member of the Green Party.
In 2004, Nader's name was taken off the Hawaii ballot when Dwayne Yoshida, then chief election officer, determined the candidate did not have enough valid signatures to qualify, a decision affirmed by the Hawaii Supreme Court.
In 2000 he garnered about 3 percent of the vote, and some Democrats blame him for taking votes away from Al Gore.
"If we're talking about any sort of withdrawal from Iraq, if we're talking about improving the economy, coming up with a meaningful energy policy and coming up with solutions for the environment, voting for Ralph Nader is simply a wasted vote," said Andy Winer, a spokesman for the local Barack Obama campaign. "There is a clear choice that Senator Obama is proving on all of the issues he's talking about."
"The only vote that's wasted is a vote for someone you don't believe in," Nader said.
"We welcome all comers," said John McCain campaign spokesman Gene Ward, who added that if Nader really believes there is no difference between the two major-party candidates, "I don't think he's studied the difference between Obama and McCain on taxes, defense and the health care system."
Nader is scheduled to speak at a "Nutritious and Delicious Independence Day" lunch tomorrow at a Manoa home.