By Derrick DePledge
Cam Cavasso, a former state lawmaker who is the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, tweaked U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz on Thursday after the Federal Emergency Management Agency denied a disaster declaration for Tropical Storm Iselle on Hawaii island.
After the Democratic primary between Schatz and U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa went into overtime because of the storm, the senator flew to Puna and helped deliver water and other supplies to storm-ravaged residents. Schatz also wrote letters to President Barack Obama and to FEMA supporting a disaster declaration.
Cavasso suggested that Schatz, who touted his ties to the Hawaii-born president during the primary, should have done more to help the state obtain federal aid.
Senator Schatz's campaign advertisements seem to imply he has a direct line to President Obama. The rejection of the disaster declaration shows the people of Hawaii that Schatz has no influence where it matters most, and that is to obtain what is necessary for the people of Hawaii.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie and Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi said Thursday that they are working to gather the information necessary for an appeal of FEMA's decision.
U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, whose district includes Hawaii Island, said she also was disappointed in FEMA's ruling, but she will work to pursue other avenues of assistance for the community.
Her full statement:
"I am deeply disappointed that the Federal Emergency Management Agency decided to deny Governor Abercrombie's request for a Presidential Disaster Declaration, which would have helped so many families in Puna who are still recovering from Hurricane Iselle. It was clear to me during my visit in Puna that assistance is absolutely necessary. While this denial is a setback, it should not discourage us from seeking all other options for assisting our friends and neighbors in Puna. I will continue to work to identify the immediate next steps and pursue alternate forms of assistance, as well as work toward a long-term approach to confront the invasive albizia tree that contributed to much of the damage in Puna.
"In the wake of this disaster, I have been inspired by the dedicated efforts of all those who came together to help the Puna community recover and heal—from the utility workers who worked tirelessly to restore power and water, to the many volunteers who provided food, ice, and other donations. I remain committed to a full recovery in Puna."