In the weeks before ballots hit Oahu mailboxes, Honolulu mayoral candidate Keith Amemiya has maintained his fundraising lead over his opponent Rick Blangiardi and outspent him too.

In the period from Aug. 9 through Sep. 26, Amemiya raked in $480,558 from approximately 350 individual donors and groups.

Blangiardi, who came in first in the August primary, brought in $389,249 from about 250 donors and organizations. 

Since he launched his campaign in 2019, Amemiya has raised $1,835,326 from contributors.

Honolulu Mayoral candidate Keith Amemiya.

Keith Amemiya has been the fundraising frontrunner throughout the election.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Then there’s the $218,000 he loaned his own campaign plus over $37,000 in other expenses he covered out of pocket. In all, he has raised and spent well over $2 million.

Business leaders who donated to Amemiya include $16,000 from executives at the rail contractor Nan Inc.; $10,000 from attorneys at the firm Imanaka Asato; $2,500 from Minh Hoang Q. Dang, president of Pacific Fishing & Supply; and $4,000 each from Robert Iwamoto Jr. and Roy Pfund of Roberts Hawaii.

Amemiya collected $14,100 from employees of the City and County of Honolulu, including $1,500 from Housing Director Marc Alexander, $500 from Customer Services Director Sherilyn Kajiwara and $4,000 from Community Services Deputy Director Rebecca Soon.

Amemiya also received donations from Linda Schatz and Jacob Schatz, the wife and brother of U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, for whom Amemiya was a campaign treasurer for years.

If he wants to get back the money he loaned his campaign, Amemiya will need to do more fundraising yet. His campaign has a deficit of over $38,000, his campaign finance report shows.

Amemiya has spent nearly $300,000 since the primary. That includes:

  • Over $100,000 on television ads.
  • $23,037 on campaign communications and graphics from DTL, a local firm that calls itself a “strategy studio.”
  • $13,627 for ad buys from the Chicago-based marketing agency Snyder Pickerill Media Group. The firm previously worked on Gov. David Ige’s 2018 reelection campaign.
  • $10,471 for administrative services from Starfish Consulting, a local firm owned by former Honolulu Department of Community Services Director Gary Nakata.
  • $19,942 for polling and field services from Solutions Pacific, a company registered to DCS Deputy Director Soon. 

Throughout the election, Blangiardi has raised $935,993 from contributors.

Rick Blangiardi announces his run for Mayor of Honolulu at Old Stadium Park.

Rick Blangiardi is using his own money to fund much of his campaign.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Donors who gave the maximum of $4,000 include William Van Den Hurk of Aloha Auto Group; Eric Yeaman, managing partner of Hoku Capital; Danny Kim, founder of the DK Leadership Group; Howard Higa, CEO of TheCab; and chef Roy Yamaguchi. 

Groups backing Blangiardi include the Hawaii Regional Council of Carpenters, the United Food & Commercial Workers Union, the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association Hotel PAC and the Alexander & Baldwin Inc HiPAC.

Blangiardi has self-funded much of his bid for mayor, campaign finance records show.

He loaned his own campaign $450,000. His wife, retired financial services executive Karen Chang, loaned the campaign $15,000, campaign spending reports show. Blangiardi also covered over $15,000 in “other receipts” for campaign expenses, and Chang donated $30,000 before the primary.

Since the primary, Blangiardi’s campaign has spent $212,002.

Most of that – $183,025 – was spent on media buys, and the main recipient was KHNL/KGMB, the television stations Blangiardi used to lead as the managing director of Hawaii News Now. The Blangiardi campaign spent $71,858 on KHNL/KGMB ads, campaign finance records show. He spent $68,786 on ads at KHON, and $14,686 on KITV. 

Recently, Blangiardi has made a particular effort to appeal to female voters.

He added a “Women For Rick” tab to his website that features messages of support from local leaders including former Hawaii First Lady Vicky Cayetano, former Attorney General Margery Bronster, philanthropist Elizabeth Rice Grossman, RYSE homeless shelter Director Carla Houser, and Maile Meyer, founder of Na Mea Hawaii, a Hawaiian resource center.

On Blangiardi’s Facebook page, the campaign has paid to target female users with testimonials from City Mill Vice President Carol Ai May and Tihati Productions co-owner Cha Thompson, according to the Facebook Ad Library.

The Race For Prosecutor

Former Judge Steve Alm has outraised and outspent his opponent, defense attorney Megan Kau, in recent weeks and throughout the campaign.

Megan Kau preaches a “tough on crime” philosophy while Steve Alm pushes for criminal justice reform.

Alm raised $73,060 since the August primary, contributing to a total of  $318,124 – about $100,000 more than his opponent. Kau raised $62,217 in the reporting period, adding to a total of $216,723.

His list of contributors includes many members of Hawaii’s legal profession including litigator Paul Alston, former judge Dan Foley and Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Christopher Van Marter.

Since early August, Alm has spent $73,149, mostly on television ads on all the local stations. An ad on his website pushes a message of trust, and that Alm has the “experience and integrity” the island needs.

Alm is planning an ad push to target voters after they’ve already received their ballots, electioneering reports show. He is spending $6,000 each on Facebook and Google ads through Oct. 27 and Nov. 3, respectively, and over $92,000 on television ads on KHON2, KITV and KGMB that will air between Oct. 5 and Oct. 30.


Alm also continues to pay consulting fees to Allen McCune, a former legislative staffer for Lt. Gov. Josh Green.

Kau’s contributors include the Local Union 293 State Legislature Fund, which is run by members of the sheet metal workers union; Honolulu Police Commission member Doug Chin; Judith Carlisle, the wife of former mayor and prosecuting attorney Peter Carlisle; Michael Pietsch, the chief operating officers of Title Guaranty Hawaii, and Mitchell Imanaka, a prominent local attorney and longtime fundraiser for Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

In the nonpartisan race, Kau also got $200 from the Oahu League of Republican Women.

In recent weeks, Kau has spent $18,751 including about $3,000 at Kalakoa Signs & D-Zigns and approximately $2,000 on digital marketing with Clever Wolf Digital. 

One of Kau’s largest single expenditures in recent weeks was $2,618 in consulting fees to Hawaii Leadership Solutions, a company formed this year and registered to City Councilwoman-elect Andria Tupola.  

Three Council Seats Up For Grabs

The Honolulu City Council will have five new members come January. Two of them will be former state lawmakers: Calvin Say, a former Speaker of the House, and Andria Tupola, a former Republican representative.

The other three seats are contested and will appear on general election ballots.

Esther Kiaaina, a former Obama administration official, wants to represent Windward Oahu on the City Council.

Marc Schechter

Esther Kiaaina and Greg Thielen are facing off in District 3, the Waimanalo and Kailua area formerly represented by Ikaika Anderson.

Kiaaina majorly ramped up her fundraising in the last few weeks, raising $72,449 since the primary in August – more than her opponent raised in the entire election so far.

Her election total is $103,480. 

Her donor list includes Oz Stender, a former trustee for the Bishop Estate and Office of Hawaiian Affairs; lobbyist Jennifer Sabas; lobbyists Blake Oshiro and Bruce Coppa of Capitol Consultants of Hawaii; Hawaii Community Foundation Director Micah Kane; and Josh Stanbro, Honolulu’s chief resilience officer.

She received $1,000 each from Schatz Collaborative, the company owned by U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz’s wife Linda, and Friends of Ann H. Kobayashi. 

Executives at the Kobayashi Group, Stanford Carr Development and Dura Constructors, Inc. also contributed to the Kiaaina campaign. Kiaaina garnered union support as well, including from the Hawaii Regional Council of Carpenters.

Greg Thielen is the owner of Complete Construction Services.

Monica Lau

The candidate’s biggest expense in recent weeks was over $20,000 in mailers from Cardinal Mailing Services, spending records show. She also bought $3,916 in Hawaii News Now ads that will run throughout October, electioneering reports show.

Thielen’s campaign brought in just under $10,000 from donors since the primary bringing him to an election period total of $70,817. 

His supporters include Hardware Hawaii executive David Lundquist, Graham Builders Vice President Evan Fujimoto and Dwight Otani, president of D. Otani Produce.

He has spent just $2,940 in recent weeks, most of which was for accounting services, his campaign spending report shows.

Will Espero was a state senator from 2002 to 2018.

BRAD-*-GODA PHOTOGRAPHY

Longtime state Sen. Will Espero and comedian Augie Tulba are running to replace term-limited City Councilman Ron Menor in District 9, which covers Mililani, Waipahu and parts of Ewa Beach.

Espero had a head start in fundraising with nearly $12,000 in cash on hand in his campaign account at the beginning of the election period, his campaign finance report shows. He has since raised a total of $139,770 – almost half of that in the last few weeks alone.

Among his donors are the Island Insurance PAC; Sierra Club Executive Director Marti Townsend; and developers including Christine Camp, CEO of the Avalon Group; Bert Kobayashi Jr. of the Kobayashi Group, and affordable housing developer Maeva Makani of the Ahe Group. 

Espero also has union support including from the Painters Local Union 1791 PAC and ILWU Local 142 Hawaii PAC Account, which is associated with the union representing longshoremen and other workers. 

City Council members Ron Menor and Brandon Elefante contributed $1,500 each to Espero from their campaign accounts, City Councilman Joey Manahan personally donated $1,000, and state Sen. Ron Kouchi’s campaign gave $4,000.

Augie Tulba is making his first run for office.

Espero spent $28,128 in the reporting period, including expenditures on T-shirts, brochures and print advertising in Filipino newspapers. He has spent $96,438 in the election overall, according to his campaign finance report.

First-time candidate Tulba raised $27,739 since August and $83,210 overall.

He collected donations from former Republican Gov. Linda Lingle, former Mayor Mufi Hannemann, and Arthur Ushijima, the former CEO of The Queen’s Health Systems who is chairing Blangiardi’s campaign.

Tulba also received support from the Plumbers & Pipefitters PAC Fund, Ironworkers for Better Government, and the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association Hotel PAC.

The Aloha Auto Group is also helping Tulba’s campaign by providing an in-kind monthly auto rental an “Augiemobile,” according to Tulba’s campaign spending report.

Tulba spent $9,328 in recent weeks, including $2,500 on his campaign manager Jack James.

Radiant Cordero is the District 7 fundraising frontrunner.

Running to replace term-limited Councilman Manahan are his chief of staff, Radiant Cordero, and Jacob Aki, chief of staff for Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English. The District 7 winner will represent Kalihi, Iwilei, Salt Lake and Hickam.

Cordero outraised her opponent with $45,811 collected since the primary and $145,964 in the election overall.

Correction: An earlier version of this story and infographic below mistakenly cited Cordero’s totals from a previous campaign finance report. The numbers have been corrected to reflect the most recent report. 

Cordero’s supporters include the HSTA Political Action Fund, the Local 1 Political Action Committee, Schatz Collaborative LLC, Pacific Development Group Director David Michael, Nan Inc. founder Nan Chul Shin, the Friends of Brandon Elefante and Ryan Mandado, chief academic officer at DreamHouse Ewa Beach Public Charter School and the candidate who came in third in the District 7 primary.

Jacob Aki raised $31,900 since the primary.

Her single greatest expenditure was $10,450 for Western Consultants, a firm based in Washington state. She also spent $7,539 on advertising in the Fil-Am Courier, a Filipino publication, and $5,500 for voter outreach software from Taylor Enterprises, a New Mexico company.

Aki raised $107,107 throughout the election, about a third of which he collected since the primary.

Among his contributors are the Jason Higa, CEO of FCH Enterprises, which owns Zippy’s; developer Christine Camp, CEO of the Avalon Group; the Island Insurance PAC, the United Public Workers Political Action Committee; and Joseph Lewis, the CEO of the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement.

Aki spent $10,869 in recent weeks, including on Facebook advertising.

PAC Money Gives Candidates A Boost

Political action committees are also pumping money into city races.

The HiVISION2020 PAC, associated with the plumbers union, spent over $21,000 on radio ads for Amemiya, plus around $3,000 and $4,000 apiece on printing costs for council candidates Aki and Tulba, respectively, its campaign spending report shows.

Be Change Now is running an ad backing Rick Blangiardi.

General Contractors Association of Hawaii Political Action Committee has spent nearly $10,000 showing support for several city and state races, an electioneering report shows. That includes Amemiya, Kiaaina, Espero and Aki.

The Democratic Party is spending money to elect Amemiya in the nonpartisan race. An electioneering report shows the party spent nearly $20,000 on ads promoting Amemiya and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

One super PAC, Be Change Now, is spending big bucks to elect Blangiardi with the backing of the Hawaii Carpenters Market Recovery Program Fund.

Electioneering reports show the PAC has spent over $300,000 so far, mostly on ad buyer Targeted Platform Media and Putnam Partners, an ad agency with a reputation of producing spiffy ads for federal candidates. The PAC has already released one Blangiardi ad portraying him as the leader Oahu needs.

Be Change Now is the latest iteration of the Pacific Resource Partnership PAC. The group previously spent over $3 million to tank Ben Cayetano’s campaign for mayor in 2012 when he was running against Kirk Caldwell on an anti-rail platform.

Before you go . . .

During this unique election season, we appreciate that you and others like you have relied on Civil Beat for accurate, objective coverage of the candidates and their races.

Covering the pandemic has taken a lot of our collective energy. But through it all, our small team of reporters made sure you didn’t forget about electoral politics. Because we know that elections not only test society’s participation in our democracy, but journalism’s commitment to safeguarding it.

If you’ve relied on our election coverage this season, please consider making a tax-deductible gift to support our newsroom.

About the Author