While he has yet to make it official, Kirk Caldwell is actively raising money to campaign to be governor of Hawaii.

He has scheduled a “Food, Friends, & Our Future” livestream event for Nov. 3, billed as “the first major event of Kirk’s run for governor.”

The notice for the fundraiser was emailed from FriendsOfKirkCaldwell2022@gmail.com.

Asked for comment Tuesday, Caldwell said, “I am preparing to run for governor. I have been on the neighbor islands putting together campaign organizations, putting the infrastructure together to run a statewide campaign. I am doing all the things that I think someone running for governor needs to do, but we have not set a formal announcement yet. We will make that when we are ready.”

Mayor Kirk Caldwell asks people to not gather in groups of more than five and celebtrate Halloween in their homes. October 28, 2020
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell appears poised to join the race for governor. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

There is also a website headlined “Kirk Caldwell for Governor,” paid for by 2021 Friends of Kirk Caldwell. While there was little posted on the site as of Tuesday morning, it did say this:

“The greatest satisfaction of serving as Mayor was the opportunity to improve the everyday lives of people on Oahu every single day. As Governor, I will take decisive action to address both new and long-standing challenges we face across the Islands. We cannot lose what has made Hawaii special. We need to provide more equity for all our citizens, in education, economic opportunities, transportation, and housing.”

Lauren Wright, the contact for the fundraiser, works for Imanaka Asato, a law firm run by Mitchell Imanaka, who as recently as July was in charge of a Caldwell fundraiser for governor.

A screen shot Oct. 26 from Kirk Caldwell's nascent website for governor.
Ex-Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell says he is “preparing to run for governor” but isn’t ready to make a formal announcement. Screenshot

Caldwell, who served in the Hawaii House of Representatives and was mayor from 2013 to January, has not been shy about expressing interest in the governorship. He told Hawaii News Now shortly after completing his second and final term that he was “seriously” looking at a run.

But he has struggled to raise campaign cash, trailing Lt. Gov. Josh Green, who has all but declared his intention to run for governor. Former First Lady Vicky Cayetano declared her candidacy in late August.

Caldwell has struggled in the polls, too. A May 2021 Civil Beat survey found that he was far less admired than Green.

The fundraising event is a twofer: The Nov. 3 virtual event featuring Caldwell, “special guests” and entertainment; and a “gourmet meal” at “one of the islands’ finest restaurants” on a future date of the donors’ choosing.

The virtual event is asking for as much as $24,000 a table at the virtual event, “plus a very special dinner with wine for eight” at dining establishments such as Jade Dynasty and Roy’s.

The promotional flier, which shows Caldwell wearing a blue palaka print, includes a synopsis of Caldwell’s life and political experience that says this:

“Most importantly, from the earliest threats of the pandemic Mayor Kirk Caldwell and his team responded to the challenge with courage and commitment, protecting community health, instituting rapid testing, feeding families in need, assisting small businesses, and effectively putting federal CARES funding to work. He left office prior to wide vaccine distribution, yet with Honolulu ranked as among the safest cities in the country.”

Cayetano held her first fundraiser on Oct. 14, while Green held his 10th fundraiser on Monday.

The Hawaii primary is Aug. 13.

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