Republican Duke Aiona is struggling to raise the money he needs to get his campaign message out in the race for governor this year, and had received less than $171,000 in donations this election year as of Sept. 26, according to his latest state filing.

By contrast, Democratic nominee Lt. Gov. Josh Green raised nearly $3.73 million this election cycle, and spent more than $3 million on his primary race against Vicky Cayetano and U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele.

In the six weeks after the Aug. 13 primary Green raised more than $253,000, and he had more than $378,000 available as his campaign heads into the final weeks of the general election. Mail-in ballots should be distributed to Hawaii voters by Oct. 21.

The new filings covering the period from Aug. 14 to Sept. 26 demonstrate Aiona is critically short of cash weeks before mail-in voting begins.

Aiona suggested in an interview on Sept. 16 that he might need as much as $1 million for the race, and expressed confidence at the time that “we’ll get there.”

On Tuesday, he said that “we’re fine. We’re scraping, but we’re fine.”

Honolulu Civil Beat's Know your candidate with gubernatorial candidates Duke Aiona.
Republican candidate for governor Duke Aiona said his campaign will have the resources it needs to get his message out. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

“The money has been coming in, not in bunches, like how my opponent has it. Mine just kind of comes in maybe $10,000 here, $5,000 there, that kind of stuff,” he said.

Aiona also said he has been spread thin during the campaign. “I can only control what I can control. It’s not so much that people don’t want to give money, it’s that I’m not doing as much as I know I could” to raise money, he said. But he added: “We’re going to have the resources we’re going to need to get our message out.”

Veterans of campaigns in heavily Democratic Hawaii have been predicting Aiona would have a difficult time raising cash because Green is presumed to have the advantage, and lobbyists and other donors tend to flock to the candidates who look most likely to win. Many large donors committed to Green early in the race.

In his latest filing Green listed sizable post-primary donations from significant players in the tourist industry as well as from Hawaii’s fledgling marijuana industry.

Green supports legalization of cannabis for recreational use, and legalization advocates are expected to launch a major push at the Legislature next year in support of recreational use to expand the market for Hawaii’s dispensaries.

Donations from that sector included $2,500 from the Kauai dispensary Green Aloha, $2,000 from Oahu dispensary Aloha Green Holdings Inc., $3,000 from the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project and more than $2,500 from Randy Gonce, executive director of the Hawaii Cannabis Industry Association.

Post-primary donations from the visitor industry included $1,000 from the Hawaii Hotel Alliance; $500 from Jeff Wagoner, CEO of the Outrigger Hospitality Group; $500 from Linda Rodrigues, senior vice president of Hilton Grand Vacations; and $500 from Sean Dee, chief marketing officer of Outrigger Hotels.

Other tourism-related donations included $1,000 from MVW & Affiliated Companies (Marriott Vacations Worldwide); $2,000 from ARDA ROC-PAC, which advocates for timeshare companies; $1,000 from Hawaii Lodging and Tourism HOTELPAC; and $1,000 from Maui Hotel and Lodging Association PAC.

Honolulu Civil Beat's 'Know your candidate' with gubernatorial candidate Josh Green.
Among the many donations to Democratic Lt. Gov. Josh Green in recent weeks was a $2,000 donation from the campaign of former Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

Also notable was a maximum $6,000 donation to Green from the United Public Workers PAC, and $2,000 contributed to Green from Friends of Kirk Caldwell, the former Honolulu mayor.

The UPW was the only major public worker union to endorse Green’s opponent Kai Kahele during the primary election. Caldwell made plans to challenge Green in the primary race for governor but withdrew from the contest before the filing deadline.

The Green campaign issued a written statement Tuesday saying it was “incredibly grateful and humbled to have received such overwhelming support from across Hawaii, with more than 5,000 individual donations during this campaign from all over our state including thousands of small donations from nurses, teachers, firefighters, EMTs, small business owners, and retired kupuna.”

“We don’t take this level of support for granted and we will keep working hard to earn it every day, to bring people together, and move Hawaii forward to meet our biggest challenges including affordable housing, homelessness, and the rising cost of living,” according to the statement.

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