Pro-business donors step up for County Council challengers

  • Jane Clement

  • Ikaika Rodenhurst

  • Matt Kanealii-Kleinfelder

  • Rebecca Villegas

  • County Council campaign summary as of June 30, 2020

Two freshman County Council members face formidable opposition in the campaign fundraising department, with pro-business challengers to both Kona Councilwoman Rebecca Villegas and Puna Councilman Matt Kanealii-Kleinfelder raising twice as much as the incumbents.

That’s according to reports filed by Thursday’s deadline with the state Campaign Spending Commission for contributions and expenditures as of June 30. The candidates face off in the Aug. 8 primary election.


Jane Clement, challenging Villegas in Council District 7, and Ikaika Rodenhurst, challenging Kanealii-Kleinfelder in District 5, have been bolstered by large contributions from businesses. Clement collected $10,962 to Villegas’ $4,700, and Rodenhurst received $15,827 to Kanealii-Kleinfelder’s $6,205.

Both challengers said they stepped up to provide a broader representation of the community.

“We need a different type of leader, one who is collaborative and works across all sectors,” Clement said. “Personally, I believe I have something to offer for the community. … I guess my message is resonating with them.”

She’s former president of the Kailua Village Business Improvement District and chairwoman of the Government Affairs Committee of the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce. Clement also was legislative assistant for almost five years to former Hawaii County Council Chairman Dru Kanuha and is now a community consultant.

Her largest cash and in-kind services contributors include the maximum $2,000 allowed from the Honolulu office of Strategies 360, a Seattle-based research, public affairs and communications company, and another $2,000 from Strategies 360 Honolulu employee Will Kane.

In comparison, Villegas received $2,000 from dog breeder Debra Cary and $1,000 each from Ian Robertson, konohiki at Kona Beach Houses, and Nita Pilago, designer at Wahine Toa clothing.

In addition, Villegas said, she’s been endorsed by Lt. Gov. Josh Green, the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers, Hawaii Government Employees Association, Hawaii Fire Fighters Association and International Longshore and Warehouse Union. She’s also supported by the Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood, Our Revolution and 350 Hawaii, she said.

“During my first term on the County Council, I believe my work has demonstrated my abilities to address a broad range of community issues, find solutions and take action,” Villegas said. “During the unprecedented COVID crisis, my focus has been on serving our community, doing the job. Fundraising and soliciting campaign contributions have not been my top priority. However, I’m grateful for the grass roots support of community members and local organizations who have been able to contribute thus far.”

Rodenhurst, in District 5, is an engineer. His major cash and in-kind services contributors include $2,000 from Greenpoint Nursery, $2,000 from Russell Kuwaye of Puna Rock, $1,628 from James McCully of Mauna Kea Orchids and $1,178.35 from Craig Takamine of Takamine Construction. There’s also $1,000 from the Plumbers &Pipefitters political action committee.

“I want to do what’s best for the community. … It’s not anything personal against Matt,” Rodenhurst said. “I think I’m the best person for the job. I’m willing to work with anyone and everyone to do what’s right for Puna and what’s right for the county.”

In comparison, a $2,000 contribution from state Sen. Russell Ruderman, a Puna Democrat, was Kanealii-Kleinfelder’s sole contribution over $1,000.

“In light of our current economy, I am honored to receive contributions especially from constituents living in Puna. I also take great care to purchase my campaign supplies locally,” Kanealii-Kleinfelder said. “Unfortunately, we often see Hilo money and special interests buying our Puna candidates. It has been a privilege to be your council member and serve our Puna community for the past two years.”


Also running for the Puna seat is Ric Wirick, a small horticultural business owner and builder who reported raising $100.

Email Nancy Cook Lauer at

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