Gov. Togiola T.A. Tulafono (D)
Democrat Togiola T.A. Tulafono was sworn in as American Samoa’s governor on April, 7, 2003, after the sudden death of Gov. Tauese Sunia on March 26. Togiola grew up in American Samoa. He graduated from the Honolulu Police Academy and worked as a policeman for a year. After attending college and law school on the mainland, he returned to American Samoa, where he practiced law for 20 years and served as a judge and a senator. Togiola was elected lieutenant governor in 1996 and served under Tauese until his death.
As governor in 2004, Togiola sponsored a statute criminalizing human trafficking, to complement the federal statute under which a Korean garment factory operator was prosecuted in 2001. Also in 2004 he expressed concern that all the 200 Army reservists in American Samoa would be called to active duty at the same time, and asked the Army to modify the policy to allow for partial deployments. In December 2004, 56 were deployed, including his daughter Olita Tulafono. In 2005, Togiola called for controls on immigration from Samoa. He has also drawn notice for his attempt to get a new airline to serve American Samoa. Only Hawaiian Airlines serves American Samoa, with four flights weekly between Pago Pago and Honolulu, and it receives a federal subsidy under the Essential Air Services program to do so. Togiola has charged that the airline charges too much and frequently reschedules flights at great inconvenience to passengers. Togiola issued an executive order ending service, but that was overturned by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
In the 2008 election, Togiola won 41% of the votes in the first round to 31% for Utu Abe Malae and 27% for Afoa Leulumoega Lufu, even though Togiola’s lieutenant governor was facing federal corruption charges. In the runoff he beat Malae by a 56%-44% margin.
In 2008 and 2009, Togiola opposed the six-month incremental increases in the minimum wage voted by Congress. Also in 2008 he complained to Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, and other congressional leaders about Delegate Eni Faleomavaega’s amendment to the Coast Guard Authorization Bill allowing Taiwan-built tuna vessels to sail under the U.S. flag. He argued that this would allow foreign boats to encroach on Samoan business. In 2009 he blamed the provision for costing American Samoa its Chicken of the Sea packing plant because it allowed the company to process the tuna in Vietnam and can it in Georgia.