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Monday, November 6, 2000

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Wet conditions at the Kaneohe Elementary School field caused
the "Local Girls" soccer team to cancel practice. Coach Mike
Hidano, far left, talks to Debbie Jackson, far right.

‘Soccer mom’
vote crucial

Just before the election,
candidates target women
and independent voters

By Richard Borreca

Pollsters have names for the two groups: "soccer moms" and "Naderites." No matter what they are called, women voters and independents are key as the race for president narrows down to just a few more hours.

Those two groups are being chased by all the candidates.

In the closing days of this election, the two important groups -- soccer moms, or women voters in general, and the independents who might vote for consumer advocate and Green Party candidate Ralph Nader -- are being targeted.

In national polls, Nader's impact shows up.

Last week, an MSNBC-Reuters tracking poll showed Bush with 44 percent of likely voters over 42 percent for Gore. But with Nader removed from the picture, the two front-runners tied at 46 percent each.

Public opinion experts hired by the campaigns look for ways to identify voters who approve of their candidate and then steer the campaign to those voters.

"This is a process you go through, no matter who your client is," said Jim Loomis, advertising and public relations consultant.

David Wilson, a former local political consultant, said campaigns are driven by poll results.

"I don't know who coined the phrase 'soccer moms,' but it means married women with kids -- and someone determined that this could be an important voting block," Wilson said.

In past elections, the so-called ethnic vote has been crucial, but in Hawaii the vote is mixed with other issues.

"I contend the AJA or Asian-American vote has less cohesion than in the past," said Arnold Hiura, former Hawaii Herald editor and a Japanese-American museum curator.

"If I don't like a politician or his policies, I won't be swayed by an ethnic appeal," he said.

Here's a sampling of women voters:

Karen Archibald, a scenic artist, was watching Nader's acceptance speech with her two teen-agers when she decided he was the candidate who spoke for her.

"They sat with me watching it for the entire hour, and teen-agers don't sit that long," she said.

"Nader appeals to a lot of people who are fed up, people who don't want slick advertising.

"The other candidates aren't addressing the real issues of military spending, health care reform and real drug programs," she said.

Archibald, after an unsuccessful campaign for the state House two years ago as a Green Party candidate, said she was "too burned out" to get involved in another campaign.

But she started collecting signatures to put Nader on the ballot in Hawaii.

"I guess my problem is, I haven't completely lost my idealism," she said.

One independent woman voter, banking executive Bennette Evangelista, said two competing issues for her are whether a vote for Bush would be better for business, compared to whether a vote for Gore would help the poor and disadvantaged.

"A lot of women are independent and are coming to their political decisions on their own," she said.

"I know Bush is on track on education, but Democrats have a better record of trying to take care of neglected parts of our community," she said.

Debbie Jackson really is a soccer mom: Her daughter is on a Kaneohe soccer team. She is a state worker, sometimes testifies at the Legislature and is someone whom one would expect to be a Democrat backing Gore.

"What is important is the integrity of the candidate," she said. "Bush and Gore are both insiders. I would like to vote for a winner, but I'm voting for Nader. He's an outsider.

"I want someone who is going to stand up for what is right, no matter what the party politics is," she said.

And then there is Adriana Ramelli, director of the Sex Abuse Treatment Center, who is looking at the candidates on the basis of their "intelligent understanding of foreign policy" and domestic fiscal policy.

"I'm also looking for their ability to really understand at an honest level what is going on with the American people.

"I'm trying to listen to them to determine if they understand the issues, or if it is a performance that they have spent time rehearsing," Ramelli said.

So is there a women's vote this year?

"It's too close to call," Ramelli said.

"Women may lean to one candidate, but this year we are independent," Evangelista said.

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