With one month left before the Aug. 13 primary election, the leading candidates in the race to become the next Maui County mayor are continuing to rake in heaps of cash.

So far, most of that money is still pouring into the campaign of former Judge Richard Bissen, who is among six others trying to oust Mayor Michael Victorino, according to the latest campaign spending reports filed Thursday. Bissen raised almost $272,000 in the period spanning from April 26 to June 30, topping the other contenders by tens of thousands of dollars. Victorino raised $91,000 in his bid to serve a second four-year term.

Maui County locator map

Campaign contributions are also starting to flow to Council member Kelly King, who announced she was joining the crowded field on June 7 — the last day possible to enter the race. Between June 8 and June 30, her campaign raised $48,000.

Council member Mike Molina, who announced his bid for mayor in early January along with Bissen and Victorino, raised $2,100 in the nine-week reporting period.

Political observers who’ve been following Maui politics for decades say this year’s mayoral race could easily go down as one of the most competitive in its history. Along with attracting the four prominent government leaders, it has also brought in a few political newcomers, including Cullan Bell of Wailuku, Kim Brown of Makawao and Jonah Lion of Makawao. Alana Kay, an author from Makawao, has run unsuccessfully for mayor in the past.

Maui County
Mayoral candidates are nonpartisan, meaning they don’t run as Democrats or Republicans. Ludwig Laab/Civil Beat/2022

Regardless whether someone is running for office for the first time or a seasoned incumbent, cash is the lifeblood of any campaign. It pays for meals for volunteers, signs, consultants, photographers and ads that run on platforms from TV to radio to Facebook, in hopes of pushing candidates’ names and messages out to voters.

Bissen has spent an astronomical sum compared to other candidates — $174,000 in the most recent reporting period alone. And he still has $178,000 in cash on hand as he heads into the primary, where voters will be asked to choose their favorite candidates and narrow the field down to the final two who’ll head to the general election in November.

During the same timespan, Victorino spent $84,000 and still has $131,000 left in the bank.

Molina, meanwhile, spent $2,800 and has $8,500 in cash on hand.

In the three weeks after launching her campaign, King spent $9,000 and still has $48,000 in the bank.

Brown, who owns the Akamai Coffee Company and is making her first foray into Maui politics, is throwing her weight into her campaign, spending almost $31,000 in the most recent reporting period. She’s put together a campaign coffer of $36,000 so far, although much of that money has come from her and her husband, who co-owns the coffee company.

Campaign spending reports were not available late Thursday for Bell, Kay or Lion.

Besides deciding to reelect the mayor or pick a new one, Maui County voters will also be choosing this election who they want to represent them in each of the nine seats that make up the Maui County Council. There are also three Senate and six House seats up for re-election in the county.

Civil Beat’s coverage of Maui County is supported in part by grants from the Nuestro Futuro Foundation and the Fred Baldwin Memorial Foundation.

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