With just over two weeks before the primary, campaign ads are flooding Hawaii airwaves and filling home mailboxes.

According to the latest campaign spending reports, candidates and super PACs are spending approximately $3 million combined on a media blitz ahead of the Aug. 11 primary, arguably the election’s most significant day given the Democratic Party’s traditional dominance in the general election.

Local candidates and independent committees are only required to submit sporadic campaign spending reports during the election season. They do, however, have to follow more stringent regulations in reporting their advertising activity.

Rep. Colleen Hanabusa speaks at Civil Beat’s “Know Your Candidates” event Wednesday. She’s the big winner in the super Pac sweepstakes. Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat

Electioneering reports offer a glimpse of how the election is taking shape. Here’s what they’re showing so far:

Carpenters Flex Their Muscles — Again

The latest filings with the state’s Campaign Spending Commission indicate Be Change Now, the latest super PAC run by the Hawaii Regional Council of Carpenters, has pumped more than $1 million into the primary race — far more than any other local super PAC.

That total comes from 20 separate electioneering filings that Be Change Now has made within the past two months. It’s unclear whether any spending redundancies exist in those filings, and the super PAC’s representatives did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.

Most of that money is funding ad buys and mailers to help Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa win the governorship from incumbent David Ige, or supporting state Sen. Josh Green’s bid for lieutenant governor.

The Race For Governor

Most of it covers advertisements and mailers through July and the first few days of August. With the primary set for Aug. 11 and mail ballots already available, Be Change Now could book more air time and mailings next month as the election approaches.

The carpenters’ council has put more than $4 million into the past three election cycles, including at least $3.2 million in 2012 under its former super PAC, Pacific Resource Partnership PAC, to oppose former Hawaii Gov. Ben Cayetano’s bid to become Honolulu mayor.

Cayetano had pledged to stop the proposed rail project, and the union pushed for Kirk Caldwell to be elected mayor.

Cayetano would later sue PRP for defamation in its advertisements against him that year. The group, which represents the carpenters’ council plus some 240 independent contractors and describes itself as the “backbone of Hawaii’s construction industry,” agreed to settle the case by making $125,000 in donations in Cayetano’s name.

Hanabusa, Green Get The Most Out Of PACs

Be Change Now has reported the highest spending so far, but other PACs and super PACs are making an impact. Hanabusa’s bid has been boosted by the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly, which represents some 3,700 UH faculty members. The union’s PAC has reported spending $154,000 so far in support of Hanabusa.

Unlike Be Change Now, however, UHPA is throwing its support to state Sen. Jill Tokuda in her bid for lieutenant governor — not Green. The UH PAC has reported spending at least $88,000 so far for Tokuda. Still, Green’s bid ultimately benefits more from Be Change Now’s massive spending push.

Senator Josh Green shares that he is voting yes on HB2730 but had serious reservations about a part in the bill that physicians would not write the real cause of death on the death certificate.
Be Change Now is boosting Sen. Josh Green as part of the largest advertising campaign so far in the 2018 election. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Ige isn’t seeing the same overall level of support from super PACs. Reports show that AiKea UNITE HERE, the super PAC for the health care industry, and Unite Here Local 5, the hospitality workers union, have spent at least $100,000 to support Ige’s re-election.

United Public Workers’ PAC, meanwhile, has poured at least $82,000 into the primary to support Ige and two other candidates, the reports show.

Still, pro-Ige super PAC funding pales in comparison to the $1 million-plus that Be Change Now reported spending to support Hanabusa and oppose Ige.

Candidates’ Own Campaigns Evenly Matched

Ige has so far reported spending more than $474,000 on advertising for his re-election, the bulk of that going to political media strategy firm Snyder Pickerill Media.

Compare that to the Hanabusa campaign’s spending so far: $471,000. More than half of that will go toward a contract with Anthology Marketing Group, the election reports show.

UPW State Director Dayton Nakanelua and their membership endorses Governor David Ige 2018 campaign during press event today.
UPW State Director Dayton Nakanelua, right, when the union endorsed Ige. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

But that nearly identical spending doesn’t compensate for the disparity in spending by super PACs.

That disparity reflects the fact that union support in this year’s governor’s race tilts toward Hanabusa. Besides AiKea UNITE HERE and United Public Workers, Ige has an endorsement from the Hawaii State Teachers Association — but its PAC hasn’t reported any advertising spending.

Neither of the top Republican candidates for governor — Rep. Andria Tupola and John Carroll — has filed any electioneering reports with the Campaign Spending Commission.

Big Money In LG Race

Several candidates for lieutenant governor are shelling out hundreds of thousands of dollars to get their messages out.

Apart from Be Change Now’s efforts, Green’s campaign has reported separately spending more than $255,000 on TV, print and Facebook advertising.

Tokuda has reported spending more than $300,000, and Kim Coco Iwamoto has reported more than $200,000.

The numbers drop off precipitously from there. Sen. Will Espero, a longtime state legislator, reported spending some $35,000 in campaign advertising. Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho didn’t post any advertising filings for his campaign.

Nonetheless, those numbers, combined with the super PAC spending, makes spending in the lieutenant governor’s race nearly as expensive as the governor’s race.

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