Candidates report contributions as election season kicks into gear

  • Heather Kimball, left, and Sen. Lorraine Inouye
  • Sen. Josh Green
  • Kai Kahele

Challengers in two key state legislative races are literally giving incumbents a run for the money, according to reports filed with the state Campaign Spending Commission.

Campaign finance reports for the last six months of 2017 were due by midnight Wednesday for candidates in state and local races.

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Reports show Heather Kimball, who is challenging Sen. Lorraine Inouye in the Democratic primary for the District 4 seat, took in $12,017 during that period, compared to Inouye’s $12,000. Inouye, a longtime legislator, still has a much larger Dec. 31 war chest at $49,103 to newcomer Kimball’s $5,756, however.

Inouye’s biggest contributions during the period include $3,500 from executives with Steel Tech Inc., a Honolulu building contractor; $2,000 from Hawaii Carpenters PAC and $1,000 from Altria Client Services, a Richmond, Virginia-based company representing tobacco and wine interests.

“My campaign committee is working hard so I can effectively communicate what we’ve accomplished,” Inouye said.

After holding no fundraisers since June, Inouye has scheduled a $150-a-ticket event Tuesday at a Honolulu restaurant, and a $250-per-ticket event Feb. 22 at the Hilo Yacht Club.

Kimball said her campaign is slightly ahead of its fundraising goals, and her early start has given her a chance to make the most of her money. Kimball’s funds include about $1,200 of her own money.

“We’re shopping the sales,” she said. “We’re focusing on the groundwork.”

Her largest contributions have come from family members, and she reported no corporate or PAC donors.

“People are liking the change of having some fresh ideas coming to the Legislature,” Kimball said of her backers.

Incumbent District 7 Rep. Cindy Evans was significantly out-raised by her Democratic primary opponent David Tarnas in Round 2 of a battle that ended in 2016 with Evans winning by 181 votes out of 4,283 votes. Evans went on to beat Republican Jeffrey Coakley to secure her seat.

So far this go-round, Evans has a war chest of $12,477, having raised $950 in the last six months of 2017. That compares to Tarnas’ $18,434 balance, having raised $16,794 during that period.

Tarnas showed 33 individual contributors giving in increments up to $2,000 each.

“These numbers show a measurable difference between the depth of local support for David Tarnas as a candidate and the shallowness of local support for Evans as a candidate,” Tarnas said in a statement. “Each of them put their name and hard-earned cash into my campaign because they believe I can serve the community well as our state representative.”

Evans did not return a voicemail or text message by press time Friday.

Two open races resulting from Sen. Josh Green’s decision to run for lieutenant governor have candidates scrambling for footholds. Green, a Democrat, raised $206,591 the last six months of 2017 and is sitting with a war chest of $536,496. He held six fundraisers during that period.

Running as Democrats for Green’s Senate seat are state Rep. Richard Creagan and Kona Councilman Dru Kanuha. Creagan raised $600, for a Dec. 31 war chest of $13,084. Kanuha raised no money during the last six months of 2017, but has $14,012 left over from his council races.

Libertarian Michael Last has also pulled nomination papers, but hadn’t opened a campaign account by Friday.

Creagan’s District 5 House seat has drawn former South Kona/Ka‘u Councilwoman Brenda Ford, Miss Hawaii 2015 Jeanne Kapela and 2016 Bernie Sanders-elected delegate Raina Whiting, all Democrats.

Ford is kick-starting her campaign with $10,000 of her own, and showed a $148 balance after deducting the loan. Announcing Friday that she’s pulled her nomination papers, Ford said her experience and name recognition should help carry her campaign along.

“I have a track record of doing the work,” Ford said. “I believe my years of experience will help me succeed in assisting the people of my district and the Big Island.”

Kapela and Whiting had not pulled nomination papers as of Friday.

In the other state Senate seat up for election this year, incumbent Democrat Kai Kahele raised $4,980 and had a $22,208 Dec. 31 balance. His biggest contributors were the Hawaii Regional Council of Carpenters with a $2,000 donation, and Outrigger hotels with $1,000.

Kahele’s campaign has scheduled a $250-per-ticket event Feb. 20 at the Sheraton Waikiki. But he said Friday he doesn’t plan to pull nomination papers until after the legislative session ends in May. First he’ll sit down with his family and decide the best course of action, said Kahele, who currently juggles his obligations to his young family with jobs as a senator, full-time Hawaiian Airlines pilot and National Guardsman.

Kahele said he’d made a deathbed promise to his dad, the late Sen. Gil Kahale, that he would finish his term and try to get his final priorities passed. This is the final year of his term, he said.

“It has been the greatest honor for me to sit in his seat and walk in his shoes,” Kahele said. “I’m not saying I’m not going to continue.”

Sen. Russell Ruderman, a Democrat representing Puna and Ka‘u, isn’t up for re-election to his four-year post this year. His campaign account shows a negative balance from his loans to his candidacy, and he raised no money in the latter half of 2017.

Democratic Reps. Mark Nakashima, Chris Todd and Richard Onishi all held fundraisers in Honolulu during the reporting period. They reported $10,450, $13,380 and $17,718, respectively, in contributions for the period.

Nakashima’s major contributors included $1,000 from Honolulu-based ship designer Navatek and $1,000 from public employee union Hawaii Government Employees Association.

Todd, a gubernatorial appointee running his first election campaign, was courted by House Speaker Scott Saiki, whose “friends of” campaign sent a $1,000 contribution, and Finance Chair Sylvia Luke, whose “friends of” campaign contributed $2,000. Another $2,000 came from the Hawaii Foodservice Alliance LLC.

Onishi’s largest contributions included $2,000 from Los Angeles-based Able Freight Services Inc. and $1,000 from Committee To Expand Middle Class — AirBnB Inc.

The remaining Big island House member, Puna Democrat Joy San Buenaventura, raised just $400 during the reporting period.

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County Council members reported little to no contributions.

Email Nancy Cook Lauer at ncook-lauer@westhawaiitoday.com.