POSTED: 9:34 a.m. HST, Sep 22, 2010
After a lengthy primary campaign that ended Saturday, Democrat Neil Abercrombie and Republican James "Duke" Aiona will soon be going toe-to-toe for the right to move into the governor's residence in December.
But both candidates are starting the fall general election contest with depleted war chests.
Abercrombie, a former congressman, had only $275,000 in his campaign treasury as of Sept. 3 after raising $2.8 million in a highly competitive primary election race against ex-Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann.
Abercrombie collected another $177,000 — but spent an unknown amount on TV ads and other purchases — in the two weeks preceding Saturday's balloting. He ended up handily defeating Hannemann.
Aiona, the incumbent lieutenant governor, faced little opposition for the GOP nomination, beating Honolulu lawyer John Carroll by 88 percentage points. But despite amassing a total of $2.8 million since early 2007, Aiona only had $487,200 in his treasury as of Sept. 3.
Aiona's campaign spending is raising eyebrows among some Hawaii Republicans, who contend he has expended too much money in the last two years instead of husbanding those dollars for the fall campaign.
"Aiona's negative burn rate the year prior to the (general) election period was a surprise," said former state GOP Chairman Willes Lee, who now is advising conservative Republican candidates on the mainland.
Lee noted that between July 1, 2009, and June 30, 2010, when Aiona had little competition for attention from Hawaii Republicans interested in the governor's race, his campaign spent about $151,000 more than it raised.
Aiona spokesman Travis Taylor said, "There are costs associated with an early declaration for a statewide gubernatorial campaign, but we're raising competitive money to finish this campaign in a very strong position."
Aiona has a trump card. Since early August, the Republican Governors Association has paid two Los Angeles firms nearly $604,700 to produce and buy broadcast time for ads on Aiona's behalf, according to state Campaign Spending Commission documents. And the RGA may spend more.
The Democratic Governors Association did not expend any money in Hawaii during the Democratic primary and has not reported spending any since Saturday.
There was no response from Abercrombie's campaign to a request for comment.
Between Jan. 1, 2009 and Sept. 3, 2010, Aiona's campaign spent nearly $333,000 on professional services, according to an AP analysis of contribution and expenditure reports he filed with the Campaign Spending Commission.
His campaign also spent about $246,200 on employee services; $156,300 on taxes, $111,000 on food and beverages; $114,200 on printing; $103,500 on advertising; and $47,600 on leases and rent, the analysis found.
During a much tougher primary, Abercrombie's campaign spent $515,900 on professional services between Jan. 1, 2009 and Sept. 3, 2010, the AP analysis shows.
He also expended almost $174,000 on employee services; $511,500 on advertising; $243,700 on food and beverages; $144,900 on leases and rent; $116,800 on taxes, and $84,700 on printing.
Neither Abercrombie nor Aiona chose in recent weeks to pre-purchase TV advertising time for the fall campaign — unlike U.S. Rep. Charles Djou, R-Hawaii, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is backing Democrat Colleen Hanabusa.
The DCCC has bought at least $377,000 in advertising time over the next six weeks, according to political ad files maintained by Honolulu's major television stations. Djou's campaign has bought at least $124,600 in ad time, according to the files.