With less than nine weeks before early voting begins in the general election, it’s looking like former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann’s role in the governor’s race could be reduced to that of the “spoiler,” with the only lingering suspense around the question of whether his losing cause will suck more votes away from David Ige or Duke Aiona.
On the one hand, Hannemann’s Hawaii Independent Party gambit turns out to have been a remarkable success at creating a politically safe and inexpensive path directly onto the general election ballot, bypassing the contested Democratic primary. But painfully few primary voters were attracted to the Independent Party ballot, and it would be hard for the candidate to claim any favorable “boost” from his campaign so far.
Gubernatorial candidate Mufi Hannemann takes the loyalty oath at the Office of Elections in Pearl City.
PF Bentley/Civil Beat
A Low-Budget Run
After Governor Abercrombie’s crushing loss despite outspending his opponent 10-1, we know money isn’t always the most important thing, but it still remains an important factor and political indicator.
Updated campaign spending reports are due on August 29, and these will include all contributions and expenditures up to the day of the primary election. In the meantime, here’s what the most recent numbers currently available show.
While Ige and Abercrombie were slugging it out for the top spot on the Democratic ticket, Hannemann’s campaign spent a total of just $13,719.75 from the beginning of the year through July 25, the most recent accounting available. Given the minimal spending, the campaign managed to bank a stash of just over $182,000 at last report.
To date, Hannemann hasn’t incurred any of the typical sorts of campaign costs you would expect for a statewide campaign, at least according to his reports on file with the Campaign Spending Commission. No campaign headquarters rent. No printing of campaign signs. Virtually no advertising. No telephones or cell phone charges. No polling or strategy development. No campaign staff. Few of the trappings of a full-fledged campaign organization.
And leading up to his April 24th announcement that he would be taking shelter under the Hawaii Independent Party tent, Hannemann’s campaign reported just five expenditures, limited to the $330 rental fee for a campaign post office box, and a total of $59.96 paid to First Hawaiian Bank for four unspecified fees. The campaign appears to have had a late start from a dead stop.
Hannemann’s Hawaii Independent Party, separate from but tightly linked to his candidacy, reported contributions totaling $66,000 during the period from January 1, 2014 through June 30, 2014.
Of that amount, $40,000 was contributed by Hannemann’s sister and her husband, Vaofua and Deryck Maughan, with another $25,000 coming from Signature Cab Holdings Inc., owners of TheCab. Hannemann himself added the final $1,000.
The contribution from Signature Cab was dated June 19. On the same day, the company’s president and CEO, Howard Higa, contributed $6,000 directly to Hannemann’s campaign, the maximum allowed by law. Two weeks later, Higa’s wife also gave $6,000, as did the Maughans, who each contributed $6,000 to Hannemann in addition to the $40,000 to the party.
And what did the Independent Party do with its cash infusion? Almost all of it, $64,000, was transferred to a savings account in the party’s name at First Hawaiian Bank.
The party’s campaign activities, meanwhile, were running on a miniscule budget, with reported primary expenses of just $1,135.27. These included $225.74 for office supplies, $325 for travel, $13.04 for printing, and $528.90 for food for campaign volunteers.
Campaign finance laws do not allow the party to simply transfer its funds to the Hannemann campaign. However, the party is allowed to spend it on get-out-the-vote activities and general party advertising that will indirectly benefit the candidate at the top of its ticket.
So just how did Mufi and his Hawaii Independent Party do in the primary?
To some extent, it doesn’t really matter. Getting Hannemann onto the general election ballot was its main purpose, and that only required a single person to vote for the former mayor. But while the new party allowed Hannemann to avoid a bruising primary, it also denied him much access to and face time with voters, unlike both of his general election opponents. The independent route is, it seems, a double-edged sword.
According to the Office of Elections, Hannemann received a total of 2,102 votes statewide out of the 289,250 votes cast, or something less than 1% of the total. Another 268 Independent Party voters left their ballots blank instead of voting for Hannemann.
The number of Hannemann votes ranged from a low of just 26 cast in Central Oahu’s House District 45, which runs from Mililani to Waialua, up to 74 votes in Kauai’s District 14, which stretches from Kapaa out past Hanalei. The numbers don’t reveal any unusually high or low points, no hot spots of electoral support, just fairly stable but minimal backing across the state.
The whole idea of an independent party just hasn’t struck a nerve with the electorate or generated any excitement, perhaps because it is so closely tied to Hannemann himself.
In terms of the amount spent this year per vote cast in the primary, Gov. Abercrombie spent an astonishing $41 for each of his 73,484 votes. Hannemann, by comparison, proved much more efficient, spending just $6.53 for each of his votes.
And David Ige spent just $2.36 per vote in his landslide primary win.
I don’t think Hannemann’s small number of votes in the primary, or their distribution, reflect the amount of support he is likely to pick up in the general election’s head-to-head matchup.
But, so far, it’s hard to see any signs of momentum building in Hannemann’s favor in either the election results or fundraising number. There just doesn’t seem to be any evidence that voters are ready to follow Hannemann’s lead and bolt in any significant numbers from the traditional Democratic and Republican parties.
Stay Up To Date On The Coronavirus And Other Hawaii Issues
Ian Lind is an award-winning investigative reporter and columnist who has been blogging daily for 15 years. He has also worked as a newsletter publisher, public interest advocate and lobbyist for Common Cause in Hawaii, peace educator, and legislative staffer. Lind is a lifelong resident of the islands. Read his blog here. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views.