Honolulu City Council members Nestor Garcia and Romy Cachola are exploring potential bids for the state Senate, according to their latest campaign finance reports.

Neither City Council member has collected contributions, but they’ve identified state Senate districts on their campaign reports, covering the period from Jan. 1 to June 30. Garcia’s and Cachola’s terms end next year — which is also when all Senate and House seats are up for reelection.

Both districts are occupied by political veterans of the same party.

According to Garcia’s campaign committee report, he listed Senate District 19 as the “office sought.” That seat is held by Sen. Mike Gabbard, and covers the areas from Waikele to Ko Olina. Garcia represents City Council District 9, which covers Waikele to Mililani Town.

Cachola told Civil Beat Monday “there’s a possibility” he’ll seek Senate District 13. That seat is currently held by Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland, and covers Sand Island to Puunui, including Kalihi and Liliha. Cachola currently represents City Council District 7, which covers upper Kalihi to Halawa Valley Estates, including Sand Island and Salt Lake.

Back to the Ledge?

A staffer for Garcia told Civil Beat Monday that Garcia, who was council chairman before being ousted, is undecided at this point despite listing the Senate seat on his report.

Cachola told Civil Beat Monday “there’s a possibility that I’m going to run.”

But he said his final decision will depend on the following: his health; if he feels he “can still make a difference;” and the outcome of redrawing of Hawaii’s political boundaries.

“It can change,” he said. “It depends on all these conditions.”

For both Garcia and Cachola, running for the state Legislature would be a return to the past.

Garcia, a former TV reporter who also served as press secretary for U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, served eight years in the state House.

In 2006, Garcia finished in eighth place in the Democratic primary for the 2nd Congressional District, well behind winner Mazie Hirono and six other well-known candidates.

Cachola, meanwhile, spent a total of 16 years in the state House.

Changing Demographics

While both Cachola and Garcia are political veterans and Democrats, so are their possible opponents.

Chun Oakland has been in the state Senate since 1996, having served the previous six years in the House. Gabbard served on the City Council from 2003 to 2006 and has been in the state Senate since 2006.

Both are popular incumbents; Gabbard was re-elected in 2010 with 70 percent of the vote, while Chun Oakland was re-elected with 78 percent of the vote.

(Running as a Republican, Gabbard unsuccessfully tried to unseat U.S. Rep. Ed Case in 2004.)

An early look at the numbers shows that Cachola has a big money advantage over Chun Oakland. He has about $164,000 cash on hand — more than 27 times what Chun Oakland has.

Gabbard has roughly $55,500 cash on hand, or double Garcia’s haul.

Another possible advantage for Cachola and Garcia, however, is that both are Filipino. So are many people in Chun Oakland’s district (in particular, in Kalihi and Liliha) and Gabbard’s districts (in particular, large sections of West and Leeward Oahu including portions of Waipahu).

In 2010, Filipinos surpassed Japanese as the largest population of Asian ancestry in the islands.

As well, the 2010 census data could change the boundaries of districts, especially Gabbard’s, where the population has grown substantially.

Comparing Reports

Here’s a comparison of Garcia and Gabbard’s financial standings, according to campaign reports:

  • Garcia: Zero contributions; $968 in expenses. Cash on hand as of June 30: $28,654.

  • Gabbard: $8,250 in contributions; $4,326 in expenses. Cash on hand as of June 30: $55,503.

Here’s a comparison of Cachola and Chun Oakland’s financial standings, according to campaign reports:

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