Correction 2/10/2020: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the amount mayoral candidate Keith Amemiya spent.

Keith Amemiya, a well-connected former insurance executive, has raked in the most campaign contributions in the Honolulu mayor’s race so far, according to campaign finance reports filed by Friday’s deadline. 

He collected $723,723 during the most recent reporting period, July 1 to Dec. 31, in part from big-name Oahu business leaders. The first-time candidate also loaned himself $200,000 to help get his campaign off the ground.

His fundraising haul was followed by former Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa, who raised $259,192 during the same six-month period, and Honolulu City Councilwoman Kymberly Pine, who brought in $127,077.

But it’s Pine who is sitting on the most cash, aided by past fundraisers for her council seat and an earlier start in raising money for the mayor’s race. She has $607,124 on hand.

That’s well above the $360,271 surplus Amemiya has in the bank and Hanabusa’s $215,881, campaign finance records show.

But there’s still plenty of time for the candidates to continue raising money — and spending it — before the Aug. 8 nonpartisan primary. The general election is Nov. 3.

Real estate broker and community activist Choon James announced her candidacy and a fundraising push this month after the latest reporting period ended in December. Her report only shows she loaned her campaign $5,000 in 2019.

Keith Amemiya, Island Holdings VP speaks and introduces Landed at Farrington High School library.
Keith Amemiya is an attorney and the former director of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

A first-time candidate, Amemiya was a senior vice president of Island Holdings until he resigned last month to be a full-time candidate, he said on Saturday. The company is chaired by Colbert Matsumoto, a powerful business figure in Hawaii with a far-reaching sphere of influence. 

Amemiya’s campaign contributions reflect that network. Among those who donated the maximum allowable amount – $4,000 – are the CEOs of big development companies including Alexander & Baldwin and the MacNaughton Group, and other major entities including Hawaiian Electric, Hawaii Pacific Health and the Hawaii Community Foundation. 

So far, Amemiya has spent $379,951 on his campaign, counting $151,373 in unpaid expenditures. The money includes over $50,000 in polling services, more than $30,000 in public relations and over $30,000 in digital advertising.

Honolulu City Council Kymberly Pine takes oath of office. 3 jan 2017
Honolulu City Councilwoman Kymberly Pine has the most campaign cash on hand. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Pine, who has spent nearly 15 years representing the Ewa Beach area at the state and local levels, has been fundraising for the mayor’s race since at least November 2017.

Her top contributors include executives of development companies like the James Campbell Company, the Kobayashi Group, MacNaughton Group and Stanford Carr Development. She also received a $500 contribution from the campaign fund of Council Chair Ikaika Anderson, who has said he is not running for mayor when his term is up this year. 

The councilwoman has spent just over $160,000 so far, including about $58,000 in the last half of last year. Her single largest expense in the last six months of 2019 was over $10,000 for a fundraiser at the Waialae Country Club followed by $9,896 to a Denver-based company called KRS Strategies and $6,684 to BOSS HAWAII, a viral marketing company run by Daniela Stolfi, one of Pine’s council staffers.

HART Chair Colleen Hanabusa speaks. 2 may 2016
Former Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa has support from developers, commercial fishermen and others. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The Hanabusa campaign has spent $93,858 this election period, including $74,495 in the past six months. One of the biggest expenses, over $17,000, was for consulting services from Mana Means Communication.

Hanabusa, a labor attorney who ran for governor unsuccessfully in 2018, has garnered support from the shipping, banking, development and commercial fishing industries, her contributions show. State Sens. Michelle Kidani and Clarence Nishihara are also backing her.

Some donors, like employees of the engineering firm R.M. Towill, appear to be hedging their bets by giving thousands to multiple candidates. But of the current candidates, Hanabusa has the exclusive backing of influential businessman Walter Dods and Jennifer Sabas, a lobbyist and 20-year chief of staff to the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye.

Honolulu City Councilman Ron Menor, who had filed to run for mayor but never officially announced his candidacy before dropping out this week, raised $364,516 in the six-month election period that started in July.

Marissa Kerns, a former Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, also filed to run but her report only shows a single donation of $500 and a deficit of $11,231. John Carroll, a former GOP state lawmaker, is also running. He raised $1,500 and has a roughly $20,000 deficit.

Other candidates can enter the race until June 2.

The next round of publicly available finance reports are due April 30, and will cover Jan. 1 to April 25.

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