The Kirk Caldwell campaign said on Thursday it may have been tricked into listing the name of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s publisher as one of the people who supports the mayor’s re-election bid.

The campaign told Civil Beat it has apologized to the newspaper’s president and publisher, Dennis Francis, after his name showed up in a two-page campaign ad in his own newspaper on Sunday.

Campaign chair Lex Smith said volunteers had set up an email system asking people to send in names to be included in a list of supporters.

“A few questionable submissions” were removed from the list before it was published, Smith said. But Francis’ name made it through.

“We condemn anyone who may have intentionally placed a name to embarrass our campaign,” Smith said.

Before the campaign acknowledged an error might have been made, Francis denied that he was one of Caldwell’s supporters.

“Thanks for checking,” he said via email. “I saw that too.”

Initially, Caldwell campaign spokesperson Glenna Wong explained, “There is another Dennis Francis who resides in East Honolulu.”

But Caldwell’s opponent in the mayoral race, Charles Djou, began pushing back on Thursday.

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“We found it exceptionally curious to see Dennis Francis’ name on this list,” said Djou.

Djou said he takes Francis “at his word” that the publisher was not publicly backing the mayor.

But his campaign did a little digging and found only one person named Dennis Francis who was registered to vote in Hawaii — the one from the Star-Advertiser.

“So, if it’s a mistake and it’s not him, then who is it?” Djou asked. “Is this a fictitious person?”

He continued: “And if it is a real person, what is the Kirk Caldwell campaign doing to advertise someone who is not registered to vote in Hawaii? Is that the type of person they think people should look to follow?”

Here’s the full statement Smith released on Thursday afternoon:

The outreach to supporters asking them if they wanted their names included in an endorsement ad took place several weeks ago. Campaign volunteers designed an electronic email program which automatically accepted and uploaded submissions into the document. The outreach also included Facebook, where anyone could submit their names. It is unfortunate that this system cannot track details of any of the submissions. 

The campaign was alerted early Sunday about the name ‘Dennis Francis’, and we deny an intentional claim of his endorsement or support. Quite the contrary, when his name was pointed out, we apologized to the publisher of the Star-Advertiser for any possible confusion which he graciously accepted. 

The volunteers did catch a few questionable submissions and they were deleted. We condemn anyone who may have intentionally placed a name to embarrass our campaign.

The Star-Advertiser endorsed Caldwell for the primary, and the newspaper is currently in the process of making endorsements for the general election.

The Star-Advertiser has also received money from the Caldwell’s campaign for advertising — including Sunday’s two-page color spread.

There are now 12 days until Nov. 8.

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