WASHINGTON — State Sen. Donna Mercado Kim continues to lead her opponents when it comes to raising campaign cash in the race for Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District, which covers urban Oahu.

According to the latest quarterly reports from the Federal Election Commission, Kim raised more than $228,000 from Jan. 1 to March 31, bringing her total haul in the race to about $400,000.

Much of Kim’s money comes from the connections she’s made during nearly four decades in elective office, including a brief stint as state Senate president from 2013 to 2015.

Senate President Donna Mercado Kim gestures during Ways and Means meeting while questioning Mayor Kirk Caldwell. 4 march 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Sen. Donna Mercado Kim leads the way in fundraising for the 1st Congressional District. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Among Kim’s donors are lobbyists, developers and government contractors, such as Bruce Coppa, Stanford Carr and Nan Chul Shin, of Nan Inc., one of the largest construction companies in the state and recipient of tens of millions of dollars in Honolulu rail contracts.

Kim has also received money from top political players and appointees, including current Senate President Ron Kouchi, former Honolulu Police Commissioner Cha Thompson and Randy Iwase, chairman of the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission.

The late U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye’s former chief of staff, Jennifer Sabas, and her husband, John, of the law firm Carlsmith Ball, donated to Kim’s campaign as well.

Honolulu City Council Chairman Ernie Martin actually took in more money than Kim during the first quarter of 2018. From Jan. 1 to March 31, records show Martin’s campaign raised $267,000.

Like Kim, much of his money came from familiar sources. Coppa, Carr, Shin and Sabas all gave money to Martin’s campaign, as did Alicia Maluafiti, a well-known lobbyist who works on behalf of agribusiness and agri-chemical groups associated with Hawaii’s seed industry as well as animal rights issues.

He received thousands of dollars from major developers, contractors and other business interests, including Christopher Benjamin, president of the Alexander & Baldwin development company, and several executives working for the engineering firm Mitsunaga & Associates.

Real estate investor Donna Walden also donated to Martin’s campaign. Walden’s sale of an apartment complex to the city of Honolulu in 2015 has been the subject of a U.S. Justice Department grand jury investigation.

Lieutenant Gov. Doug Chin, who previously served as Gov. David Ige’s attorney general, raised nearly $220,000 in the first three months of the year.

Many of Chin’s donors are lawyers. Among them are Paul Alston and Peter Carlisle, who Chin worked for when Carlisle was Honolulu’s mayor. 

Chin also received donations from Jennifer and John Sabas and Honolulu police commissioners Loretta Sheehan, a former federal prosecutor, and Steven Levinson, a former associate justice on the Hawaii Supreme Court.

The most recent publicly available poll — which comes from the Honolulu Star-Advertiser — had Chin neck-and-neck with Kim, with the former Senate president slightly ahead, 32 percent to 29 percent with 31 percent of voters polled undecided.

Martin and another candidate, state Rep. Kaniela Ing, had single-digit backing in the poll. Ing’s campaign spending reports show he raised about $93,000 in the first quarter of 2018.

Ing had actually spent the most on the race as of March 31.

Not included in the most recent batch of FEC filings is fundraising data for Beth Fukumoto, who recently announced she was running in the Democratic primary.

Fukumoto, who had been the Republican minority leader in the state House, quit her party in March 2017 over her concerns about President Donald Trump. She announced her bid for Congress as a Democrat last month.

The money race in Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes rural Oahu and the neighbor islands, is far less competitive.

Incumbent Tulsi Gabbard, who first won the seat in 2012, raised about $222,000 in the first quarter of 2018.

Her main opponent in the race, Sherry Campagna, meanwhile, brought in just under $10,000.

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