Hawaii County Council: Challengers hold their own with small donations

Two West Hawaii County Council candidates are powering their campaigns with small donations, while East Hawaii incumbents are relying more on larger contributions.


Two West Hawaii County Council candidates are powering their campaigns with small donations, while East Hawaii incumbents are relying more on larger contributions.

That’s according to a West Hawaii Today analysis of reports filed by Wednesday’s deadline with the state Campaign Spending Commission for nine council races, many of which will be decided today.

South Kona/Ka‘u District 6 challenger Raina Whiting topped the list of candidates relying on donations of $100 or less to fund their campaigns. A full 97 percent of her $6,407 in contributions came in $100 or smaller increments.

Whiting, one of the new generation of candidates riding the Bernie Sanders popularity wave, said smaller contributions were a deliberate choice. She said she generally turned back larger checks and took money only from individuals rather than corporations, unions or special interest groups.

“It’s very important to me to be community-supported rather than special interest-supported,” Whiting said Friday. “I really felt like this race was going to be my chance to test the waters. But the response, I’m really blown out of the water.”

By contrast, Maile David, the incumbent in that district, has collected $3,890, of which 7.7 percent came from contributions of $100 or less.

“I have been able to get my word out given the positive feedback and encouragement I have received from the people in District 6 who are pleased with the work I’ve been able to accomplish in my first term,” David said.

North Kona Councilwoman Karen Eoff came in a close second in minor donations, with 91.7 percent of her $3,106 coming in small bills. Her challenger, Jeffrey Citron, collected 50.2 percent of his $2,808 in contributions from smaller donors.

Eoff said her use of $100 or less contributions also was deliberate. She did so, she said, in order to qualify for state matching funds in the partial public funding program.

“I reached out to my constituents in order to get contributions of $100 or less,” Eoff said. “It’s kind of in keeping with the whole idea of more fair elections, which I support.”

At the other end of the spectrum is incumbent Hamakua District 1 Councilwoman Valerie Poindexter, who is running unopposed. She has collected $2,650, none of it in smaller donations.

Contributions in council races are capped by law at $2,000 per contributor for each election cycle.

Hilo District 2 Councilman Aaron Chung is close behind, with 6.4 percent of his $6,250 in contributions coming from donations of $100 or less.

Chung said he hasn’t hosted fundraisers or other campaign events that would bring in the smaller check-writer; mainly because he doesn’t think he needs the money. He did attend union interviews and five decided to send checks.

He had almost $20,000 left over from his last campaign, and he’s running a less-intensive candidacy this time, he said. Chung noted his 2014 campaign was more balanced between large and small contributions, with about a third of his money coming from donations of $100 or less.

“It looks bad on paper, but it was my way of saying I wouldn’t tap the resources of the community with all these other hot races going on — the mayor, open council seats, the (state) Senate seats,” Chung said.

Some $235,511 in contributions has been divided among County Council candidates so far this election cycle, with almost $100,000 of that going into a hotly contested three-way District 3 race to replace Hilo Councilman Dennis “Fresh” Onishi.

In comparison, $248,103 has been dumped into the mayoral race.

Two candidates — District 3 candidate Mona Kelii and District 9 challenger Tim Richards — had to file amended reports because of errors in their first primary reports covering the first six months of this year. The original reports were due July 14; the amendments were filed last week, after walk-in voting was already underway.

Kelii’s filings showed $14,841 more in contributions than she first reported before correcting her report twice. Richards also filed two corrections, with the final one showing $5,363 more in contributions than first reported.

Kelii said her corrections had to do with incorrectly attributing repayment of a loan to her campaign as an expense instead of a loan and repayment of a loan.

Richards attributed his corrections to questions about the maximum $100 allowed when reporting a calabash contribution and small $5 and $10 donations from people “who preferred not to have their names in print.”

“My treasurer’s meticulous records answered the question for the Campaign Spending Commission,” Richards said. “Nothing was out of order.”

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


Money flows to County Council races

Here’s a look at each candidate’s total contributions and the percentage of which came from contributions of $100 or less:


Margaret Wille $16,593 34.2%

Tim Richards $40,360 10.2%


Karen Eoff $3,106 91.7%

Jeffrey Citron $2,808 50.2%


Dru Kanuha $9,225 16.0%

Nestorio Domingo $200 0.0%


Raina Whiting $6,407 97.0%

Maile David $3,890 7.7%


Daniel Paleka $20,126 9.0%

Jennifer Ruggles $11,433 65.5%


Madie Greene $6,274 19.3%

Eileen Ohara $9,896 75.9%

Michael Bernard n/a


Moana Kelii $49,798 29.2%

Susan Lee Loy $28,170 15.9%

Grace Castillo $18,071 32.6%


Aaron Chung $6,250 6.4%

William Halversen n/a

Dayday Hopkins $254 0.0%


Valerie Poindexter $2,650 0.0%


Source: West Hawaii Today analysis of data

Reported as of Wednesday to Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission

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