After a tough primary race, Hawaii Gov. David Ige has more than $206,000 on hand heading into the general election — far more than his Republican challenger, state Rep. Andria Tupola, state campaign finance records show.
Ige raised nearly $2.7 million through the state’s primary season. His campaign opted not to exhaust all of those funds despite a formidable challenge from Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa, who at one point seemed poised to win the Democratic nomination based on early polling.
Ige’s gamble on the spending restraint paid off. He now has substantial funds as he pivots to the general election. The details come from the primary’s final spending reports, which were due to the state Campaign Spending Commission on Friday.
Hanabusa held an Aug. 9 fundraiser — a sign that her campaign needed more cash in the primary’s final days. Campaign spending receipts show that several state lawmakers — including top legislative leaders who vociferously supported Hanabusa’s bid — heeded that call for help.
Rep. Sylvia Luke, the House Finance Committee chairwoman, donated $6,000 the day before the fundraiser, records show. Luke’s counterpart in the state Senate, Ways and Means Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz, gave Hanabusa $6,000 the day after the fundraiser.
In March, Dela Cruz and Luke, along with Senate President Ron Kouchi and House Speaker Scott Saiki, signed a joint fundraiser letter supporting Hanabusa and criticizing Ige for “inattention, indecision and inaction.” Luke subsequently called Ige a “crybaby” when he criticized the legislators’ move. She later apologized.
Kouchi did not donate to Hanabusa’s campaign in the primary’s final period. However, his wife, Joy, and their two sons, Egan and Dan, gave a combined $4,000 on Aug. 7.
Reps. Henry Aquino and Ryan Yamane also gave Hanabusa a combined $3,000, recorded the day after her fundraiser.
On Aug. 11, Ige won the primary with 50.2 percent of the vote to Hanabusa’s 43.7 percent.
Tupola begins the general election at a serious cash disadvantage to Ige. Her campaign reported Friday having just $11,700 on hand.
That’s a remarkably small amount of cash compared to the state’s last Republican nominee for governor, James “Duke” Aiona, who reported having $198,000 heading into the 2014 general election
Tupola already faces a tough challenge this fall, running in a deep-blue state with a lieutenant governor running mate who’s already criticized Tupola’s legislative record.
Nonetheless, Tupola could see a spending boost from outside groups, such as the Republican Governors Association, which touted her primary win.
Big Spending To Be LG
In other races, Sen. Josh Green raised more than $1.1 million in his successful bid to win the Democratic lieutenant governor nomination — more money than any other candidate for that office in at least the last 10 years, records show.
Sen. Jill Tokuda, Green’s colleague in the Legislature and his closest competitor in the race, reported spending $856,000 in the primary.
Green bested Tokuda by less than 3 percentage points.
It’s a massive amount of cash in a race for an elected position with very little power. However, Hawaii’s lieutenant governor’s seat is widely viewed as a stepping stone to higher political office.
In 2010, for example, Brian Schatz raised about $630,000 in his primary bid for lieutenant governor. In 2012, then-Gov. Neil Abercrombie appointed Schatz to serve in the U.S. Senate after Sen. Daniel Inouye’s death. Schatz would later win the seat outright in an extremely tight 2014 race against Hanabusa.
Outside Groups Played a Big Role
Independent groups, including super PACs, also had to report their final spending for the primary season.
The primary cycle’s biggest outside player, Be Change Now, reported spending more than $3.7 million in the election, the bulk of it supporting Hanabusa and Green.
The super PAC is running at a deficit of more than $567,000, which it will have to fill in order to pay its vendors. Many of its unpaid expenditures are for controversial mailers opposing Honolulu Councilwoman Carol Fukunaga’s re-election bid. The super PAC instead supported construction-industry representative Tyler Dos Santos-Tam, but Fukunaga won anyway.
AiKea UNITE HERE, a super PAC that represents hospitality and service workers across the state, reported spending more than $280,000 to support Ige’s re-election.
Another big-spending super PAC in 2018, Defend Hawaii Now, had not filed its final spending report for the primary as of 6:15 p.m. Friday. The group, backed by prominent contractor and longtime political donor Dennis Mitsunaga, appeared late in the campaign season to back Hanabusa’s bid.
The Campaign Spending Commission fined Defend Hawaii Now $3,000 earlier this month for not filing the required preliminary paperwork with the state.
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