Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell still has a few months left in his county job, but if recent campaign spending reports are any indication, he’s already got his sights set on the fifth floor of the State Capitol.
Caldwell reported raising $280,000 between July and December in his 2022 bid to be governor, according to campaign finance reports filed Friday.
That far outpaces some of the only other candidates who have shown an interest in running for governor this far out. Lt. Gov. Josh Green and Mufi Hannemann raised $45,000 and $4,500, respectively, over the same six-month period.
Caldwell spent close to $60,000 in the same period, $33,000 of which went to food and drinks for a Dec. 9 campaign event at the Waialae Country Club.
Caldwell’s report on campaign donations between July and December 2019 reads like a “who’s who” in Honolulu politics. He’s accrued thousands from top law firms, construction companies and the business community.
He’s also hauled in over $27,000 combined from 13 different city employees, many who hold director positions in Caldwell’s current administration.
Those employees include: Sherilyn Kajiwara, the director of customer services; Marc Alexander, the housing director; Roy Amemiya, Caldwell’s managing director and cousin of mayoral candidate Keith Amemiya; Georgette Deemer, the deputy managing director; Richard Keene, an adviser in the managing director’s office; Michele Nekota, director of the Department of Parks and Recreation; Darren Niino, a manager in the Department of Land Management; Sandra Pfund, the director of the Department of Land Management; Rebecca Soon, deputy director of the Department of Community Services; Mark Yonamine, deputy director of the Department of Design and Construction; Randy Chu, a manager in the Department of Land Management; Po-Young Lai, an agricultural liaison; and James Howe, director of the Emergency Services Department.
He’s also gotten campaign support from two state employees in Gov. David Ige’s administration including Rona Suzuki, the director of the Department of Taxation, and Linda Chu Takayama, Ige’s chief of staff.
Jeffrey Stone, founder of The Resort Group, gave Caldwell $8,000, which is $2,000 more than state law allows for gubernatorial races. Caldwell’s campaign reports show he gave the excess amount back.
He also had to return $4,000 to Leighton Mau, owner of the Waikiki Business Plaza.
Caldwell got $16,000 combined from executives at Kobayashi, Sugita and Goda, a law firm, and the Kobayashi Group LLC, a development company. Both are run by men named Bert Kobayashi who have been a force in campaign donations for years.
Caldwell raised those funds while just holding one fundraiser last year in October, at which he spent $2,500 on entertainment from Kaiwi Entertainment and another $2,200 on event security.
In December, Caldwell also paid Kobayashi, Sugita & Goda $2,300 for legal fees.
Mitchell Imanaka, of the law firm Imanaka Asato, made several hundred dollars worth of food donations for campaign meetings in December.
Green’s $45,000 came from donations from physicians, several lobbyists and folks in the health industry. In 2018, Green, a Big Island doctor, was propelled into his current role with over $1 million worth of support from the building industry.
The same building industry political action committee also supported Caldwell in his mayoral run to defeat former Gov. Ben Cayetano.
The only money Hannemann’s campaign got was $4,500 worth of donations from himself.
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Blaze Lovell is a reporter for Civil Beat and a graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He was born and raised on Oahu. You can reach him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @blaze_lovell