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State Sen. Josh Green has more than a half-million dollars in his campaign coffers, far more than any of his 24 colleagues.
Green’s $515,800 exceeds the combined cash on hand of the two senators who come closest to him on that measure, Donna Mercado Kim ($245,000) and Donovan Dela Cruz ($244,800).
Green, who represents Hawaii County’s Kona and Kau districts, also raised more money than any of his colleagues — $72,000 — in the last reporting period that covers July-December 2015.
And yet, Green is not up for re-election until 2018. He faced no opponent in the 2014 Democratic primary and swamped Libertarian Michael Last, taking 76 percent of the vote in the general election.
Green has received significant contributions from medical interests. He is an emergency room doctor and was, until a recent Senate leadership shakeup, chair of the Senate Health Committee.
In 2015, donors included political action committees for the Hawaii Medical Association, the Hawaii Medical Service Association, UHA Health Insurance and the Healthcare Association of Hawaii.
Other notable Green donors from the medical field: Arthur Ushijima, president and CEO of Queens Health Systems; Jerris Hedges, dean of the University of Hawaii medical school; and Michele Carbonne, former head of the UH Cancer Center.
And here’s a few notable mainland donors involved in the health-care industry: Pfizer of New York, Surgical Notes MDP of Dallas, and Wellcare PAC and Automated Health Solutions, both of Florida.
Green has spent little of his money. Last year, the biggest benefactors were Allen McCune, a former legislative staffer for the senator, who was paid $2,000 a month by Green for “campaign work,” and Akamai Brainstorming, who did social media work.
Asked why he has so much campaign cash, Green said it is because he has rarely had to spend any of it during his 12 years in office.
“There have been no significant races, so I just save it,” he said.
It was reported recently that Green is considering running for lieutenant governor or governor in 2018, but Green said he has not put any “new thought” into a run.
“I am waiting to see what Shan does,” said Green, referring to Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui. “But I am also really pretty content doing what I am doing in the Senate. I am not looking at running for something else on the near horizon.”
He added, “More than anything else, people have been asking me to consider running for the mayor of the Big Island, but I respectfully declined.”
Kim, a Democrat representing Kapalama and Kalihi Valley, ran unsuccessfully for Congress two years ago. She was unopposed in the 2012 primary and general elections.
Kim’s contributors include political action committees from established groups like Outrigger Enterprises, Local Union 293, Young Brothers and the Hawaii Association of Realtors. Well-known individual donors include Walter Dods and Bert A. Kobayashi.
The longtime incumbent hasn’t spent much, and what she has spent was primarily for producing a community newsletter.
Dela Cruz is a Democrat who represents Mililani Mauka, Waipio Acres, Wahiawa and Whitmore Village. His contributors in 2015 include Monsanto Company, Turtle Bay Resort, Wallace Theatres, Hawaii Laborers PAC and the well-connected Jennifer Sabas.
Like Kim, Dela Cruz is up for re-election this year. Four years ago he ran unopposed in the primary and crushed Republican Bo Aki in the general.
Another incumbent Democrat, Sen. Michelle Kidani, is not up for re-election this year. But she is raising money, including from the Hawaii State Teachers Association (Kidani chairs Senate Education).
Kidani, who represents Mililani Town and parts of Waipio Gentry, Waikele, Village Park and Royal Kunia, ran unopposed in the 2014 primary and easily defeated Republican Dennis Kim and Libertarian Rayman Banda in the general.
Senate President Ron Kouchi of Kauai is in the top five of 2015 fundraisers, receiving cash from the likes of the Alliance for Solar Choice and Plumbers & Pipefitters PAC.
His expenses includes several thousand dollars for mainland trips that are part of his duties, such as attending a National Conference of State Legislatures meeting in Seattle.
Kouchi spent little on his campaign needs, including $77.41 for “pork butt for smoke meat” from Times Supermarkets. The senator was unopposed in the 2012 primary and swamped Republican William Georgi in the general.
Green’s numbers aside, the recent campaign filings for Hawaii’s 25 senators generally square with state Campaign Spending Commission reports that show winning Senate campaigns in 2014 raised an average of $93,000 and spent $75,300, while losers raised $14,500 and spent $12,300.
As with the Hawaii House of Representatives, the more money a candidate has, the more likely he or show is to win.
But it’s not always that simple. Consider two Senate contests in 2014:
Lorraine Inouye, a former senator and Big Island mayor, easily beat incumbent Malama Solomon in the seat that runs north from Hilo to Waimea and Kohala and back south to Kona. It was a rematch after Inouye lost by less than 1 percent of the vote to Solomon in 2012.
As the Spending Commission shows, Inouye received less money than Solomon in the 2014 election but spent more. The result is that Inouye spent $10.49 per vote to win while Solomon spent $23.25 but lost.
Inouye faced Libertarian Alain Schiller in the general election. In that contest, Schiller spent a mere 31 cents per vote yet still managed to pick up 20 percent to Inouye’s 72 percent.
Another Senate race to look at in 2014 was Roz Baker’s in South and West Maui.
Baker, a longtime incumbent, far outraised and outspent Democrat Terez Amato in the primary and Republican Pika DuBois and Libertarian Bronson Kaahui in the general. In total, Baker spent $24.36 per vote that election year.
And yet Amato, who spent $17.36 per vote, managed to pull in 43 percent of the primary to Baker’s 52 percent. Amato ran on a platform that targeted Baker on the environment and “the interests of corporations.”
And DuBois, who spent just 2 cents per vote (amazingly, he received only $51 in contributions and sent $50), took nearly one-fourth of the general election vote.
To be sure, Baker won the general in a landslide and the primary could hardly be called close. But it does suggest that even candidates who are not loaded with cash from major donors can still make a dent in the electorate.
There are 14 state Senate seats up for election this year.
They include the Hilo seat held by the late Gil Kahele. His son, Kai Kahele, was appointed by Gov. David Ige last week to take the seat, but there will be an election to fill the reminder of the term, which expires in 2018.
|Senator/Candidate||Amount raised (Nov. 5, 2014-Dec. 31, 2015)||Cash on hand||Running in 2016|
|Dela Cruz, Donovan||$44,901.36||$244,818.50||Yes|
|Chun Oakland, Suzanne||$650.00||$600.02||Yes|