Two of Hawaii’s most prominent leaders in charge of the local response to the COVID-19 pandemic spent time in 2020 strengthening their financial positions for expected runs for the governor’s office next year.
Lt. Gov. Josh Green and former Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell each raked in hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations, new reports filed by Green and Caldwell show. Both candidates suspended fundraising from March to August due to the pandemic.
Green’s campaign brought in a total of $385,047 during the entire calendar year while Caldwell received $217,394 in donations, according to new campaign finance reports filed Monday.
Gov. David Ige will complete his second and final term next year.
Green, the state’s COVID-19 liaison, and Caldwell, the city’s former top official, regularly found themselves in front of TV news cameras and often traded barbs regarding the handling of the pandemic in competing press conferences and other forums.
Still, Caldwell’s campaign leads the hunt for money with $518,461 cash on hand to Green’s $338,894 as of Dec. 30. The former mayor also fundraised more than Green in the last six months of 2020, pulling in $182,110 in contributions.
Green raised $156,397 during the same time period.
In his last two months in office, Caldwell received a total $12,500 in donations from several political action committees and businesses including the Bank of Hawaii’s PAC ($2,000); the Hawaii LECET PAC, a partnership between the local laborers union and its contractors ($1,000); Island Insurance PAC ($3,000); Park Hotels and Resorts, a real estate investment trust that owns several Waikiki properties ($2,000); Hawaiiana Management ($500); Don Murphy, owner of Murphy’s Bar and Grill ($1,000); and Fa Wong Wu, an owner of L&L Hawaiian Barbecue ($1,000).
Joseph Majkut and Eric Hashizume — both executives at the Hawaiian Dredging Construction Co., a Honolulu rail contractor — donated $1,000 each to Caldwell’s campaign.
Between July and December 30, Caldwell raised a total of $6,000 from eight high-ranking members of his former administration including Michele Nekota, Randy Leong, Richard Keene, Mark Yonamine, Carolee Kubo, Marc Alexander, Po-Yung Lai and Sherilyn Kajiwara.
Since 2016, the start of Caldwell’s last term as mayor, about 40 city employees and officials donated more than $87,000 to Caldwell’s campaign account, according to campaign finance data.
The rest of Caldwell’s donations come from a slew of individual business executives and attorneys, many of whom have donated to his campaign in the past.
Pfizer Inc., the company that developed one of the COVID-19 vaccines that has been deployed here in Hawaii and around the world, is among Green’s donors. The pharmaceutical company gave Green $800 in August, records show.
The company is no stranger to local politics, having pumped more than $85,000 into local campaigns since 2009, according to campaign finance data.
Green, a Big Island emergency room doctor, has attracted donations from others in his profession.
Fifteen physicians donated a total of $17,250 to Green’s campaign, among them Jerris Hedges, dean of the John A. Burns School of Medicine at the University of Hawaii Manoa.
Two psychologists and a pathologist combined to give Green $5,000.
John Henry Felix, CEO of the insurance company Hawaii Medical Assurance Association, donated $1,000 to Green during the reporting period.
Green also got a boost from hoteliers including Jeff Stone ($6,000), owner of the Resort Group which developed and manages Koolina, as well as Ben Rafter ($2,000), president and CEO of Springboard Hospitality. ARDA-ROC PAC, a political action committee for the American Resort Developers Association and the Resort Owners Coalition, donated $1,000.
Charter Communications, the telecommunications company that does business in Hawaii through its brand Spectrum, donated $6,000 to Green’s campaign.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @blaze_lovell