In the final weeks before the Aug. 8 primary election, former Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa outraised all other mayoral candidates, and public defender Jacquie Esser brought in more campaign cash in her run for prosecutor than any of her competitors combined.

That’s according to reports filed Wednesday with the state Campaign Spending Commission that cover July 1 through July 24.

Hanabusa raised $120,702 in that time period and $660,353 in the election so far.

Colleen Hanabusa.
Colleen Hanabusa brought in the most donations in July. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

That includes $4,000 from Mike Formby, the former executive director of Pacific Resource Partnership, an influential organization that represents the construction industry. Formby was Hanabusa’s chief of staff when she was a U.S. representative, and they served on the board of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation together.

Honolulu City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi as well as PACs that represent funeral homes, general contractors and Central Pacific Bank also contributed to the Hanabusa campaign.

In July, Hanabusa dished out tens of thousands of dollars to mainland companies that help left-leaning candidates boost their image. She spent the most money, $230,000, on Sage Media Planning & Placement, a Washington D.C.-based company that provides “winning media buying strategies for progressive candidates & causes,” its website states. 

She paid $21,009 to Run The World Digital, which says it helps “progressive campaigns and organizations” with digital and direct-mail strategy. The company previously worked on Hanabusa’s unsuccessful 2018 bid for governor.  

Hanabusa also paid $13,181 to McKenna Media. The Baltimore-based company worked with Kamala Harris during her campaign for the U.S. Senate and former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg when he was running for mayor in Indiana. 

Although Hanabusa experienced the biggest boost in the final stretch, businessman Keith Amemiya has dominated in mayoral campaign fundraising overall.

The Amemiya campaign reported donations totaling $114,459 in July, contributing to an overall total of $1.2 million this election. That doesn’t include $218,712 he loaned his own campaign.

Amemiya’s donor roster shows strong support from the Oahu business community.

Keith Amemiya, 2020 Honolulu Mayoral candidate.
Keith Amemiya brought in $1.2 million since launching his mayoral campaign last summer. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

The list includes major support from employees of Island Holdings, Amemiya’s former employer, the RM Towill development company, and Bowers + Kubota, an architecture and engineering firm. He also received over $11,000 from employees of the City & County of Honolulu. 

Amemiya spent $414,574 in the last month alone – more than any of his competitors by far – largely on advertising. That includes $268,796 on television ads, $36,240 in other media buys and $17,607 on print advertising.

The campaign paid Oahu Publications $52,356 in installments to put him on the cover of MidWeek along with a flattering profile this week as voters began to receive ballots in their mailboxes. The move has been criticized by Civil Beat columnist Denby Fawcett and others as “pay-to-play journalism.” 

Amemiya also bought ads in The Hawaii Herald and The Hawaii Hochi, Japanese language publications. 

The candidate’s campaign spending report shows the vast majority of his donations were over $100. The campaign has $79,872 in cash on hand and has $70,228 in unpaid expenditures.

Former TV executive Rick Blangiardi raised $83,918 in the last few weeks, contributing to a total of $521,967 in donations since he started his bid for mayor.

Rick Blangiardi announces his run for Mayor of Honolulu at Old Stadium Park.
Rick Blangiardi loaned his campaign nearly half of its total receipts. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

Throughout the election, Blangiardi has loaned his own campaign $400,000 – one of the biggest loans in a state or local political race in over a decade, according to state data that goes back to 2006.

This month, he added $150,000 to an earlier loan of $250,000, which was itself the largest single political loan for a county or state election since 2006. Other candidates have loaned themselves more in aggregate: Kim Coco Iwamoto in her 2018 lieutenant governor’s race and Kirk Caldwell in his 2012 run for mayor.

Among his donors are the HEMEP Political Fund, run by unionized electrical workers, and employees of D. Suehiro Electric, Central Pacific Bank and Hawaii Pacific Health. 

In July, Blangiardi spent $238,974 on Anthology Marketing Group, a local communications firm – more than any other expense in that time period. He also spent $98,355 at KHNL/KGMB, his former employer.

Former Mayor Mufi Hannemann raised $102,533 in July. Since announcing his candidacy in early June, he’s raised $490,107 total.

Mufi Hannemann.
Mufi Hannemann raised nearly half a million dollars in eight weeks. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

Campaign finance reports from earlier this year show Hannemann contributed $51,000 to his own bid, and his brother-in-law Sir Deryck Maughan also gave $50,000, the maximum allowable amount for immediate family members.

Notable contributors in July include attorney Mitchell Imanaka, Pro Service Hawaii CEO Benjamin Godsey and Waikiki Shopping Plaza President and CEO Leighton Mau.

Hannemann also got the backing of political action committees associated with the General Contractors Association of Hawaii PAC, the Hawaii Firefighters Association and Central Pacific Bank.

The former mayor spent the most money in the last month on Hagadone Media Group, a digital market agency. He paid them $99,476, according to spending data. Hannemann’s biggest spending category was television ads, including $57,898 at KHON. 

Honolulu City Councilwoman Kym Pine has been fundraising for her mayoral run since 2017, and it shows in her election period total. However, the Ewa Beach representative brought in only $20,609 in July, the lowest of the leading five candidates. That’s less than former state legislator Bud Stonebraker, who raised $47,187.

2020 Honolulu Mayoral candidate Kym Pine at Kakaako Salt.
Kym Pine has played the long game, and contributions slowed down this period. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

Her recent donors include Lawrence Judd, who represents the North Shore’s Hanapohaku development, and his wife Carol Judd as well as executives with The Resort Group, the Ko Olina Resort and the MacNaughton Group.

Her biggest expense in July was $33,576 to KHON. 

Activist Choon James raised only $725 in the month of July and is running a deficit of $9,723.

A recent poll from the Honolulu Star-Advertiser suggests the mayor’s race could be a close one and is very likely to result in a November runoff election.

Blangiardi and Hanabusa took the lead at 21% and 20%, respectively, with Amemiya trailing at 13%.

Hannemann garnered support from 10% of likely voters and Pine got 9%. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 5%.

Notably, 20% of respondents to the poll still didn’t know who they would vote for as of July 20 through July 22 when the poll was conducted.

Esser Ramps Up In Prosecutor’s Race

In the prosecutor’s race, Alm is the fundraising frontrunner, but public defender Jacquie Esser picked up steam in contributions and spending.

Honolulu Prosecutors Layout Elections 2020
Esser, far right, got a boost this month but still trails Alm, far left, and Kau, second from left, in overall contributions. Acting Prosecutor Dwight Nadamoto, second from right, raised little money. 

She raked in $27,009 in July – more than any of her competitors combined in that time period. About half of that total came from small donations of $100 or less. Her election period total is $106,421.

Her supporters include attorneys and investigators with the federal public defender’s office, attorney Myles Breiner and lawyers working for the state of Hawaii.

Of the $86,105 Esser has spent in the race overall, almost half of it was used in the last month alone. Much of it was spent on radio and television marketing, including $5,763 to KITV.

In the entire election period, however, Esser was outraised by Alm. He raised $215,630 overall, with $14,745 of that collected in July.

Alm benefitted from union support from the ILWU LOCAL 12 Hawaii Political Action Committee, the PAC for the longshore and warehouse worker union; the Hawaii Regional Council of Carpenters; and the Hawaii Fire Fighters Association PAC.

He also received donations from Central Pacific Bank’s PAC and received $1,000 each from attorneys Thomas Otake and Bill McCorriston.

In July, Alm spent $14,873. His single biggest expenditure was $4,000 for consulting, campaign communications and voter data services from Allen McCune, a “strategic sage” who helped get Lt. Gov. Josh Green elected, according to the website of the Washington, D.C.-based Mellman Group.

Alm also purchased social media and radio ads.

Defense attorney Megan Kau raised $8,445 in July. That contributed to a total of $145,328 made up mostly of donations of $100 or more.

In the last month, the first-time candidate spent $52,656 – more than any of her competitors. It went almost entirely to radio and television ads.

Acting Prosecutor Dwight Nadamoto received three donations totaling $1,340 in the last month and $25,536 total in the election.

In the last month, Nadamoto spent only $315, on campaign handouts and a self-inking stamp.

Candidate Tae Kim brought in $2,350 in July and spent $3,800 on signs, flyers and radio advertising. Attorney RJ Brown raised $0 in the last month and spent $999 on web services, T-shirts and media consulting.

Like in the mayor’s race, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser poll found the top prosecutor candidates are neck and neck.

Steve Alm garnered support from 24% of respondents and Kau and Esser each got 17%. The poll, conducted July 20-22, has a 5% margin of error, and 30% of poll takers were still undecided.

As of Wednesday, the Honolulu Elections Division already received 103,768 mail-in ballots. Just over 100 people had voted in person.

Civil Beat politics and opinion editor Chad Blair contributed reporting. 

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