WASHINGTON — Turns out the people of Hawaii are still feeling the Bern.

Bernie Sanders, the U.S. senator from Vermont, so far has raised more money from the Aloha State than any other Democrat vying for the chance to take on President Donald Trump in the 2020 general election.

Sanders even outraised presidential hopeful Tulsi Gabbard, the U.S. congresswoman from Hawaii.

“Bernie Sanders and his team have the machinery in place to do this,” said Todd Belt,  a professor at George Washington University and director of the school’s political management program.

“Certainly, Tulsi Gabbard has her supporters, but what she has pales in comparison to both the sophistication and size of the operation Bernie Sanders has.”

Bernie Sanders is a known commodity to Hawaii voters. Nick Grube/Civil Beat

According to Federal Election Commission data from the Center for Public Integrity, Sanders received nearly $199,000 in contributions from Hawaii donors between Jan. 1 and June 30.

Gabbard, meanwhile, raised more than $152,000 in that same span.

That’s enough to place them No. 1 and 2 among their Democratic peers in the presidential field.

The numbers were compiled by combining itemized contributions — those over $200 that are required by the FEC to be publicly disclosed by candidates — with data from ActBlue, which is the mechanism used by most Democratic candidates to collect small-dollar donations.

According to the Center for Public Integrity, the data includes about 94% of all individual contributions made to candidates.

The financial support for Sanders shouldn’t be too surprising.

The senator won Hawaii’s presidential preference poll in 2016, beating out former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who went on to lose the general election to Trump despite winning the popular vote.

Nationwide, Sanders is also one of the top fundraisers in the Democratic field, having received more than $32.6 million in contributions for his presidential campaign, combined with more than $10 million he transferred over from his previous campaigns.

Gabbard, meanwhile, has struggled to stay relevant, both financially and in the polls.

The congresswoman has raised $3.5 million so far for her presidential campaign. She transferred an additional $2.5 million to her presidential campaign from her congressional account.

An analysis of the data that combines names with zip codes also shows there’s significant crossover between Sanders and Gabbard donors. An estimated 31,000 people across the country have donated to both campaigns.

There also appears to be a significant amount of donor crossover between the campaigns of U.S. senators Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, as well as Sanders and Warren.

Close to 60,000 donors gave to both Harris and Warren, about the same number as gave to both Sanders and Warren. Donors giving to Sanders and Harris added up significantly less, about 19,000.

Gabbard donors also seem to like Mike Gravel, the former U.S. senator from Alaska who, like Gabbard, presents himself as an anti-war candidate. He is second only to Sanders among the candidates who received money from Gabbard donors. About 9,000 people gave to both.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard Democrats Unity Breakfast held at the Dole Cannery Ballroom.
U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is considered by many a long-shot candidate. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Gravel has since dropped out of the race and endorsed Sanders for president. He also said he would support Gabbard’s run for president or vice president.

Kauai resident Janice Bond is one of those donors who sent money to both Sanders and Gabbard’s presidential campaigns.

In 2016, she said, she worked with Sanders’ Hawaii operation as a member of the Kauai Democratic Party. She also remembers the first time she met Gabbard, when she was running for Congress in 2012.

Bond recalls picking up Gabbard at the airport and taking her to Hanapepe to meet with voters.

When a crying woman approached Gabbard after the event, Bond said she was struck by how the future congresswoman locked eyes and listened to every word despite a growing line of people waiting to meet her.

“I feel that she is one of the better candidates especially if you’re talking about wanting a female president,” Bond said. “She’s sincere, she’s very conscious about her words and about how she presents herself.”

If Gabbard wants to pick up more support in her home state, Bond said, she might want to pay closer attention to the issues in her district. Bond pointed specifically to Native Hawaiian protests on Mauna Kea over construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope.

Gabbard has not visited the mountain since the protests began.

Instead, she has participated in protests in Puerto Rico and travelled to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota where in 2016 she stood alongside protestors when they fought against the construction of an oil pipeline.

“She’s been going all over the mainland states, but I think she needs to come home to her base here to activate them,” Bond said.

Gabbard’s campaign did not respond to a Civil Beat request for comment.

There’s still a black box surrounding small dollar donations to Republicans who don’t yet use a contribution conduit, such as ActBlue, on a large scale. That’s why it can be hard to see exactly how much money is coming out of Hawaii into Trump’s campaign coffers.

According to FEC data, Hawaii residents donated more than $95,000 to the president’s 2020 re-election campaign.

But that figure is likely an undercount of the money he’s getting from Hawaii.

Trump has raised millions of dollars from small-dollar donors throughout the U.S., many of whom are allowed to remain anonymous because they did not contribute more than $200 to the campaign, the threshold that requires their identities to be disclosed.

And while Trump is beating most of the presidential field among Hawaii donors, his reported haul is still only a fraction of the more than $762,000 raised by the 2020 Democrat field as a whole.

An Important Note

If you consider nonprofit, independent news to be an essential service that helps keep our community informed, please include Civil Beat among your year-end contributions.

And for those who can, consider supporting us with a monthly gift, which helps keep our content free for those who need it most.

This year, we are making it our goal to raise $225,000 in reader support by December 31, to support our news coverage statewide and throughout the Pacific. Are you ready to help us continue this work?

About the Author