Money matters – Hawaii elections by the numbers

The latest fundraising numbers posted by the Campaign Spending Commission tell an interesting story, both locally and state-wide.

The first big question I have is: What is Senator Donovan Dela Cruz running for? Will it be Governor (my guess) or Lieutenant Governor?  As the current Chair of the Senate Ways and Means (WAM) Committee, Senator Dela Cruz already holds significant power and influence over the state budget, and thus over all state government.

Why risk losing the power and influence he already holds by taking a chance on the Governor’s race? Why keep holding fundraiser after fundraiser unless he intends in fact to do so?

With $871,348 in the bank and still counting, I’m thinking the Lieutenant Governor’s race is his for the taking. But why bother? The LG position holds no tangible power whatsoever.  Yes, it provides a platform, elevates one’s voice, and is a stepping stone to be Governor, but why would someone who is in a position of significant power NOW, settle for LG and be resigned to wait 8 years for a chance to be Governor?

Nope: My guess and it’s pure speculation is that Senator Dela Cruz ($871,348) will be announcing shortly his entry into the race to be Hawaii’s next Governor. Move over Lieutenant Governor Josh Green ($636,120), former Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell ($509,202), and businesswomen Vickie Cayetano ($0).

I’m thinking the price of poker for the gubernatorial race just went up.

Other top fundraisers sitting now in the legislature include House Finance Chair Sylvia Luke who is sitting on a $423,603 balance in her campaign war chest and House Speaker Scott Saiki who has a respectable $227,079 – especially when you take into consideration a typical House race should only require $40,000 to $80,000.

What about the race for Lieutenant Governor? Potential candidates rumored to be considering the LG race include former State Senator and Honolulu Councilmember Ron Menor ($489,229), former State Representative and Honolulu Councilmember Joey Manahan ($88,012), and former Honolulu Councilmember Ikaika Anderson ($436,779).

Media reports and the rumor mill have also mentioned former House Speaker Scott Saiki ($227,079) and former State Senator/WAM Chair Jill Tokuda ($0) as likely LG contenders. Today’s Civil Beat reports that Saiki is mulling over the opportunity

None of the potential candidates appear to be actively fundraising for the race.

Given her long tenure in the Senate and extensive contacts throughout Hawaii, former Senator Tokuda could no doubt boost her balance fairly quickly, but the reality is that she is starting from zero. First-time candidate and public interest attorney Sergio Alcubilla is the only officially announced LG candidate and is just getting started with an account balance of $276.

It is interesting that Kauai’s Senator, Senate President Ronald Kouchi’s campaign account holds only a paltry $55,794. This would normally reflect a candidate who is extremely confident about re-election and is not interested in climbing the political ladder further, or who is not planning to run for reelection. In this case, it seems obvious the former is the case.

Turning to the campaign bank balances of Kauai’s 3 House seats: District #14 (North Shore, Kapaa) Nadine Nakamura is the top fundraiser with $66,924 and seems to be the only one actually prepared for a challenger in 2022. Kauai’s other two Representatives lag behind with District #15 (Wailua Homesteads, Lihue, Puhi) James Tokioka at $20,076 and District #16 (Koloa, Kekaha) Daynette “Dee” Morikawa at $13,141.

Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami who is not up for re-election until 2024 has received statewide accolades for his handling of the COVID crisis. As a result, there has been speculation he might be being lured into a campaign for higher office in 2022. However, with a campaign account balance of only $28,455 and zero fundraising activity, this now seems unlikely.

Kauai Council Chair Arryl Kaneshiro who is “termed out” and unable to run for re-election to the Council is sitting on a war chest of $63,354. This is more than sufficient to mount a run for a House seat or even challenge the Senate President, should he decide to do so (see how rumors get started…).

In descending order the incumbent Councilmember campaign account balances are: KipuKai Kualii $25,505, former Mayor Bernard Carvalho $5,576, Mason Chock Sr. who is also termed out and unable to run for re-election $4,826, Bill DeCosta $26, Luke Evslin  -$669 (negative), and Felicia Cowden -$6,724 (negative).

Other Kauai politicians with campaign funds available that might signal a run for office in 2022 include former Councilmember Ross Kagawa $10,438, and Addison Bulosan who ran for Council and finished #8 in 2020 $7,901.

While the candidate with the most money does not always win, in the world of politics and elections the amount of money available to a candidate is a good indicator as to the viability of a campaign.  

In local elections where “everyone knows everyone” the power of the dollar is less important, but for candidates who lack name recognition or trying to break through and beat an incumbent in a contested race – having sufficient funding is an essential element needed in any winning strategy.

About garyhooser

This blog represents my thoughts as an individual person and does not represent the official position of any organization I may be affiliated with. I presently serve as volunteer President of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (H.A.P.A.) I am the former Vice-Chair of the Democratic Party of Hawaii. In another past life, I was an elected member of the Kauai County Council, a Hawaii State Senator, and Majority Leader, and the Director of Environmental Quality Control for the State of Hawaii - in an even earlier incarnation I was an entrepreneur and small business owner. Yes, I am one of the luckiest guys on the planet. Please visit my website AND sign up for my newsletter (unlike any email newsletter you have ever gotten, of that I am sure) - “Come to the edge.” “We can’t. We’re afraid.” “Come to the edge.” “We can’t. We will fall!” “Come to the edge.” And they came. And he pushed them. And they flew. - Christopher Logue (b.1926)
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1 Response to Money matters – Hawaii elections by the numbers

  1. Scotty Poppins says:

    Wonderful article Gary! It really gives a good background on upcoming races in potential candidates. I already know for the most part who I don’t want to stay in office, and there are few who I do. Let’s hope that the progressives put up some good choices and have some Financial backing to run competitive races.

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