WASHINGTON — There’s little drama in Hawaii’s congressional races this year, but that hasn’t stopped candidates from raising hundreds of thousands of dollars and spreading that wealth around the country to others facing more competitive races.
Third quarter fundraising figures from the Federal Election Commission show Hawaii’s top federal candidates and office holders raised more than $600,000 between July 1 and Sept. 30.
While that’s just a pittance compared to the estimated $11 billion that’s expected to be spent during this year’s election — or even the $57 million Jaime Harrison raised in three months in his bid to upend Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham — it’s still a significant amount of money moving about the political fray.
Here are some Hawaii-centric takeaways from the latest campaign spending numbers:
Hawaii Republicans Are Non-Competitive
Both U.S. Rep. Ed Case and state Sen. Kai Kahele, who’s vying for Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District, are expected to win their respective races.
The Democrats face token Republican opposition from Ron Curtis, a former NASA contractor who lives on Kauai and shares QAnon conspiracy content, and Joseph Akana, a retired businessman and former U.S. Air Force intelligence analyst from Waianae.
Curtis, who’s running against Case in Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District that represents urban Oahu, hasn’t reported raising any money for his campaign against Case while Akana has pulled in more than $33,000 in donations throughout the entire election cycle.
Case, on the other hand, raised nearly $107,000 during the third quarter of 2020 while Kahele pulled in $145,000.
Since January 2019 — which is the beginning of the current two-year election cycle — Case has raised about $573,000, which includes an additional $23,000 he reported raising in the first two weeks of October.
Kahele, who launched his campaign just after U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard announced she was running for president, has raised more than $1 million for his campaign.
Maintaining A Majority In The House
Without much in the way of competition in the general election, Case and Kahele made sizable donations themselves to House candidates across the country to ensure they maintain a Democratic majority in 2021.
Case reported giving money to several of his colleagues, including representatives Cindy Axne, of Iowa, Elissa Slotkin, of Michigan, and Joe Cunningham, of South Carolina. In all, Case donated $1,000 each to 24 different candidates across the U.S.
Kahele, too, spread the wealth to candidates in New York, Arizona and Texas, among others. He also gave $2,800 to the campaign of former Vice President Joe Biden, who announced this week he was endorsing Kahele for Congress.
To further help Democrats, Case and Kahele reported donating an additional $160,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee since July.
Can Democrats Flip the Senate?
Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz doesn’t have an election until 2022, but that hasn’t stopped him from raising money for Democrats running against incumbent senators.
Scroll through his Twitter feed and you’ll find Schatz encouraging his more than 337,000 followers to donate to candidates all across the country, whether it’s Barbara Bollier in Kansas or Theresa Greenfield in Iowa.
Team, if Barbara Bollier wins the Senate race in Kansas, Mitch McConnell loses control of the Senate. But we need your help! She’s a doctor and a state senator who will be able to lead on issues like Medicaid expansion. You know what to do! https://t.co/LdF28URMSJ
He’s even enlisted the help of some of his closest colleagues, including Chris Murphy, Cory Booker and Martin Heinrich, to help raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to flip the Senate back to Democratic control.
Hey @ChrisMurphyCT and @CoryBooker you guys thinking we do another Senate race today? There are a few viable candidates – super close races – that still need money. LMK.
Schatz backs up all the Twitter talk with donations of his own. In the last quarter his campaign gave $250,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
His leadership PAC has also donated more than $200,000 to Democrats, including some of his current colleagues, such as Doug Jones, who faces a stiff challenge in Alabama from former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville, who is endorsed by President Donald Trump.
Schatz’s own campaign raised about $100,000 during the third quarter of 2020, and has nearly $3 million in cash on hand.
Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono, who cruised to a second six-year term in 2018, is similarly seeking to oust Republicans from the Senate by sending money to their Democratic challengers.
Her leadership committee, named Pineapple PAC, has contributed more than $160,000 to Democrats seeking to flip Senate seats in Maine, Texas, Alaska and others.
Tulsi Gabbard’s Mystery Money Moves
Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, whose term ends when the new Congress is sworn in next year, continues to confound.
Gabbard’s popularity has plummeted in the Aloha State, and ever since her failed run for president she has been guarded about her future political plans.
Federal Election Commission records don’t offer many clues. Gabbard turned her presidential campaign committee into a leadership PAC in September, which indicates she still intends to play in politics.
Before doing so, however, she transferred $127,000 to her congressional campaign account even though she didn’t report owing any debts.
There are restrictions on how Gabbard’s campaign committee can spend this money. For instance, she can donate it to other political candidates, give it to charity or lay the groundwork for a future campaign.
Erika Tsuji, a longtime spokeswoman for Gabbard, did not respond to questions about the donation.
Gabbard’s leadership PAC reported donating $1,500 each in September to Ammar Campa-Najjar and Sri Kulkarni, two Democratic candidates running for House seats in California and Texas.
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