As the November election draws closer, the candidates for Honolulu City Council are making a final push to both fund their campaigns and spend their donations wisely. 

Campaign finance reports, which were due on Monday, reveal some candidates have brought in big bucks to fund their races while others have spent more than they’ve raised. 

In District 8, the area encompassing Pearl City and Mililani, Ron Menor entered the council race with a major fundraising advantage – the most money of any council candidate this year. The former council member already had over $500,000 in the bank from his time as a council member.

Honolulu City Council Chair Ron Menor during full council meeting.
Ron Menor had the biggest fundraising lead coming into this election thanks to his prior political experience. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2017

However, Menor’s opponent state Rep. Val Okimoto has pulled ahead when it comes to dollars collected this year. Her recent donors include former Republican Gov. Linda Lingle, members of the Kobayashi property development empire and Hawaii Community Foundation CEO Micah Kane. 

After she announced her run in January, Okimoto brought in over $90,000 through mid-August, according to campaign finance data. Menor collected $26,500 in that time period with support from labor unions representing carpenters, engineers and laborers. 

Since the August primary, Okimoto has again raised far more than Menor. She pulled in over $22,000, her latest campaign finance report shows. He collected $200.

Representative Val Okimoto speaks during crossover floor session at the Capitol.
State Rep. Val Okimoto raised more money this year than her opponent Ron Menor. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

It’s unclear whether Menor’s slowed fundraising reflects a lack of enthusiasm for his campaign or whether his existing war chest allowed him to forgo fundraising efforts this year and focus on other campaign priorities. 

Regardless, he has spent over $230,000 on his council campaign in 2022. 

Over $100,000 of that went to a Connecticut-based company called Mission Control Inc. for communications consultant services, campaign finance data shows. Another $22,000 or so went to Ward Research Inc., which conducts surveys, polling and voter research services.  

Much of Okimoto’s spending has been on printing and postage for campaign mailers, campaign spending data shows. 

In District 6 – which spans downtown, Chinatown and Nuuanu – Tyler Dos Santos-Tam is the dominant fundraiser. 

The former head of the Democratic Party has the backing of major labor unions, real estate moguls, lobbyists and prominent community members, including Linda Schatz, the developer and wife of U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, and former mayors Mufi Hannemann and Kirk Caldwell.

Dos Santos-Tam has spent over $168,000 on the council race with thousands expended on print mailers, social media advertising, banners and video production, campaign spending data shows.  

Dos Santos-Tam’s opponent, City Council aide Traci Toguchi, has admitted she is uncomfortable raising money for politics, and her campaign spending report reflects that. She has spent more than she raised and has had to dip into her personal funds to cover campaign expenses. 

In September alone, she spent over $3,000 of her own money to cover printing costs, postage and other expenditures, her spending report shows. She has also loaned her campaign over $10,000. 

Incumbent Honolulu City Council Chair Tommy Waters, who seeks to fend off challenger Kaleo Nakoa, has plenty of money in the bank. 

Waters has raised nearly $143,000 this year and has spent about $60,000 of it.

His supporters include developers from the R.M. Towill Corp., leadership at the private equity firm BlackSand Capital and chief executives like Central Pacific Financial Corp. CEO Paul Yonamine and Outrigger Hospitality Group CEO Jeffrey Wagoner.

Waters is also backed by political action committees run by the unions representing plumbers, laborers and electrical workers.

About $5,000 of Waters’ funds covered printing costs, and over $2,600 went to signage. Otherwise, Waters’ campaign money has recently gone toward fundraising fees on the ActBlue platform and donations to other candidates’ campaigns, including his former aide Matt Weyer, who is running in District 2.  

Nakoa has only two campaign donations totaling $2,000, both from a retiree named Elaine Wong. With that money and his own funds, Nakoa has purchased campaign hats, banners and shirts. 

In the race to represent the North Shore, Weyer and Makua Rothman are pretty evenly matched when it comes to fundraising. 

Weyer has pulled in about $132,000 while Rothman has collected about $116,000. 

Weyer’s key supporters include unions representing laborers, carpenters, and government employees as well as individuals including progressive activist Kim Coco Iwamoto and University of Hawaii professor Denise Antolini. 

His recent expenses include $2,575 on signs and banners, $520 on a newspaper ad and $770 to buy food and drink from Zippy’s for a campaign event, according to his spending report. 

Rothman’s top donors include contractor Vernon Lowry; Domino’s Pizza franchisee and prolific Republican campaign donor Mike Rompel; and the developers behind Hanapohaku, a company that operates a food truck hub across from Shark’s Cove but hopes to turn it into a shopping center and parking lot

Rothman has focused his spending in the last month on professional services. That includes $2,000 to his campaign assistant Mary Colburn, $5,480 to the New Hope Oahu church for “contract, employee & professional services,” and $4,000 to Hawaii Leadership Solutions, the political consulting company run by council member Andria Tupola. 

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