Honolulu businessman and political newcomer Keith Amemiya is outpacing former U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, City Councilwoman Kym Pine and other candidates in fundraising for the 2020 Honolulu mayor’s race.
But it’s early. Honolulu television executive Rick Blangiardi is expected to make his mayoral bid official next week and had not yet filed any reports with the state Campaign Spending Commission. Meanwhile, former Mayor Mufi Hannemann and onetime U.S. Rep. Charles Djou have not announced their political plans, but neither has ruled out a mayoral run.
The primary election is Aug. 8. The time frame to file nomination papers began Monday and runs through June 2.
Other major takeaways from the latest election financing reports filed with the state Campaign Spending Commission last week:
>> The powerful super PAC Be Change Now, spearheaded by the Hawaii Regional Council of Carpenters, has amassed a war chest of more than $4 million, although it’s unclear what races the political action committee will seek to influence.
>> In the closely watched Honolulu prosecutor’s race, former deputy prosecutor and now defense attorney Megan Kau is out-raising a host of other candidates, including former Judge and U.S. Attorney Steve Alm and potential candidate and current acting Prosecuting Attorney Dwight Nadamoto.
>> Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, who lists governor as the seat he is seeking on his campaign spending report, calculated a surplus of $338,482. That includes $280,833 raised from July 1 to Dec. 31.
Amemiya reported $940,223 raised in the four-month period from the time he entered the race in late August through the end of 2019. Of that amount, however, $200,000 came through a loan the candidate gave himself. Additionally, he listed $151,374 in debts owed.
Amemiya spent $228,577 during that period, also the most among the candidates who filed reports, not counting the debts owed. While the report shows $711,645 in available cash, the campaign is carrying only a $360,272 surplus, significantly less than Pine.
All but $11,485 of the funds raised came in contributions of more than $100. Among the influential Hawaii residents who contributed to his campaign were executives of law and insurance firms, construction trade companies, development firms and nonprofits.
Among those Amemiya’s campaign owes money to are local campaign and communications consulting firms DTL LLC ($44,503), Strategic Outcomes LLC ($41,885) and Chicago-based Snyder Pickerill Media ($21,434), which has worked on the campaigns of Gov. David Ige and U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.).
Among his biggest expenditures were $44,340 to local public relations firm Glenna Wong Public Relations, $51,204 to Alabama-based polling company Anzalone Liszt Grove Research and $15,707 to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser for digital ads.
Pine, who first voiced interest in the mayor’s race at the end of 2017, carried over into this campaign $125,581 from her successful 2016 Council reelection bid and has since collected an additional $641,644 for a total raised of $767,225, according to her latest report. More recently she raised $127,077 from July 1 to Dec. 31, significantly less than Amemiya. Among Pine’s contributors are architects, construction companies, developers, builders and Realtors.
All but $3,730 of the funds Pine raised came in contributions of more than $100.
Pine spent $160,100 from January 2017 to the end of 2019 and boasts the highest actual available money at $607,125. Pine listed among her expenses $10,794 for a fundraiser at the Waialae Country Club, $14,896 to Denver-based marketing firm KRS Strategies and $9,894 to Boss Hawaii, a Kailua-based marketing company owned by Pine’s Council staff aide Daniela Stolfi.
Hanabusa reported the third-most cash available for the mayor’s race among active candidates and continues to have third-most cash on hand. After finishing second in the 2018 Democratic primary election for governor to Ige, Hanabusa carried over $43,775 to the 2020 mayor’s race.
Her campaign raised $259,192 from July 1 to Dec. 31, second highest to Amemiya during that period, and she listed a cash surplus of $215,881. Only $4,873 of the amount raised came in contributions of $100 or less. Her top contributors include developers, consultants, business leaders, engineers and attorneys.
Hanabusa spent $74,795 during the period, also third behind Amemiya and Pine. Her major expenditures were to political communications firm Mana Means ($17,543) and fundraising consultant Brittany Ross ($17,602), and $6,839 in expenses for a Waialae Country Club fundraiser.
Councilman Ron Menor, who announced last week he will not seek the mayor’s seat after previously indicating he would, had raised $224,516 from July to December and reported available cash on hand of $389,002. Menor indicated he is not likely to seek political office in 2020.
Blangiardi, who is expected to announce his candidacy Wednesday, has not yet formally organized a campaign committee, but said he will be doing so soon.
Former state Sen. John Carroll reported raising $4,000 for the election, spending $24,242 and having a cash deficit of $20,242.
Real estate agent and community activist Choon James, who has promised not to accept any donations from lobbyists or political action committees, reported as revenues only the $5,000 she loaned to herself. She made no expenditures.
Hannemann, who said he is not decided on his political plans this year, reported putting in $4,500 of his own money to pay off a debt he incurred during an earlier governor’s race. His report, he said, “is not about fundraising for mayor.”
Djou filed a spending report showing no transactions and no cash balance as of Dec. 31. Djou said he is undecided on any political plans this fall. In 2016, Djou waited until the June 7 deadline to file nomination papers for what was an unsuccessful challenge to Caldwell’s reelection bid.
Be Change Now
Super PAC Be Change Now took in an additional $877,622 from the Hawaii Carpenters Market Recovery Program Fund PAC, giving the group a $4.06 million surplus. As a super PAC it is allowed to spend an unlimited amount to advocate election or defeat “of a clearly identified candidate” so long as there are no direct candidate contributions and no coordination between the super PAC and any candidate or party. As a standard PAC, the Hawaii Carpenters Market Recovery Program Fund can and has given directly to candidate committees.
Be Change Now spent nearly $4 million in 2018 advocating for the election of Lt. Gov. Josh Green, then- gubernatorial candidate Hanabusa and, to a lesser extent, an unsuccessful challenger to the reelection bid of Councilwoman Carol Fukunaga. In 2012, Be Change Now affiliate group Pacific Resource Partnership funded a $3.6 million campaign aimed at defeating the Honolulu mayoral campaign of rail opponent and former Gov. Ben Cayetano.
In 2016, Workers for a Better Hawaii, another super PAC funded by various Hawaii union organizations including the Hawaii State AFL-CIO, the Hawaii Government Employees Association and the Hawaii Regional Council of Carpenters, spent nearly $1 million in support of Caldwell’s reelection bid for Honolulu mayor.
Be Change Now, PRP and the Hawaii Regional Council of Carpenters did not respond to the Star-Advertiser’s questions this week about the super PAC’s priorities for 2020.
Kau raised $123,132 from July to December in her bid to replace Keith Kaneshiro. Kau, who announced her bid in September, spent $39,856 through Dec. 31, second among the candidates. The $83,276 left in her account is the most among the prosecutorial candidates.
Kaneshiro has been on voluntary paid leave for the past year and has indicated he is not running for reelection to what would be a third term. He filed a report showing no receipts during the period but a cash balance of $38,252.
Alm, the former U.S. attorney and state judge, raised $102,825. The $44,400 he spent as of Dec. 31 was the most among the candidates for prosecuting attorney, and the figure does not include $18,997 in unpaid expenditures. Alm, who announced his bid in November, has an available surplus of $39,529 which ranks second only to Kau.
RJ Brown, a former deputy prosecutor and now defense attorney, collected $57,206 through Dec. 31, the third most among city prosecutor candidates. He spent $31,585 and has a surplus of $25,621, both of which also rank third.
Deputy Public Defender Jacquelyn Esser raised $20,035 through Dec. 31, fourth among prosecutor candidates, spent $8,285 and has a surplus of $11,750. Defense attorney Tae Kim raised $1,880 and spent $1,700, leaving a surplus of $180.
Nadamoto, who said he declined participating in a debate last month because he had not decided whether he is running to replace his former boss, has nonetheless established a campaign committee, which has shown some activity. The campaign reported $7,848 in receipts, $7,672 in expenditures and a cash balance of $175. He also listed $4,859 in a loan he made to himself that he used to pay a marketing firm.