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Okinawa City woman first to win mayoral election

Date Posted: 2006-04-28

Mitsuko Tomon made history Sunday, upsetting the Liberal Democracy Party favorite to win the Okinawa City mayoral election.

The 63-year-old Democratic Party of Japan politician is the first woman to win a mayoral race in Okinawa. She edged Sachio Kuwae by 2,050 votes to win, pulling 28,709 votes against his 26,659. The LDP had held the mayoral position the past eight years.

Tomon had popular support from worker and teacher associations, as well as the Communist Party, as she campaigned on pledges to improve the local Okinawa City economy while dealing with shrinking finances. She promised not to cut any city employees from the payroll.

“Don’t worry, I’ll protect you. I don’t fire you,” she told government workers. Okinawa City is facing financial difficulties as the Trinity Reform Plan has reduced or eliminated government subsidies this past year. Still, she promised to “take care of welfare problems.” The City Office had projected a need to eliminate 50 workers over the coming three years. Okinawa City workers rallied to her cause, leading her to proclaim “it’s not my victory. This is the victory of the citizens.” Tomon said she’ll establish a new communications section called the City Activity Committee Group, aimed at opening new lines of information sharing with local residents.

Tomon says she’ll work to fill empty shops in the city with new business, while continuing to fight against military bases on Okinawa. She says the East Coast Seashore Development Project will be addressed by specialists and citizens, promising “to find the best way to do it for the future.”

Skeptics are concerned Tomon will not be able to live up to her promises. They note there are no easy budget solutions, and say her contentious relationship with the prefecture and national government agencies could cause even more subsidies to be cut to Okinawa City. They also question how she will attract more business to the city at a time she’s lobbying to get the American military, which spends quite a bit of money in Okinawa City, out.

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