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Thursday, August 21, 2008
Incumbents get little homegrown support
By Andrew Walden @ 1:24 AM :: 3233 Views

by Andrew Walden

Campaign spending reports filed in July show a clear pattern developing in several races on the Big Island and in Maui County—and something new. Entrenched incumbents are relying on donations from corporations which do business with the state, lobbyists, political action committees (PACs) and labor unions. But unlike elections over the last few decades, these incumbents are facing well-funded challenges whose contributors include many fresh faces coming largely from within the electoral district.

The Hawai`i Tribune Herald August 4 quoted Dwight Takamine saying, “more that 80% of this reporting period’s contributions were from people who gave $100 or less…I believe this is reflective of the grassroots nature of the support that I’ve received.” The Big Square Building is surrounded by grass. Quite a bit of Takamine’s money comes from those “roots.”

Mainland and O`ahu-based donors kicked in 55.5% of Takamine’s contributions. These include 65 donations from unions, political action committees (PACs), corporations and other special interest groups representing $27,346.03 or 30.7% of the money he collected this period. And the small “under $100” donors? They amount to only 39% of contributors, not 80% as Takamine claimed.

In contrast, Ted Hong, Takamine’s opponent received $39,291 from 62 donors only 17 of whom were off-island. Hong’s donors include dozens of district residents from up and down the Hamakua coast.

Takamine abandoned his long-held House District One seat after being defeated in his effort to “shed more blood, not less” of Ed Case supporters in the Democratic Legislative caucus after Dan Akaka survived Case’s 2006 primary election challenge. Booted from his lucrative seat as House Finance Committee Chair Takamine racked up the legislature’s worst attendance record in the 2007 session. Said one observer: “Dwight Takamine embodies everything that is wrong with Hawai`i politics.”

Seeking the abandoned HD1 seat, Republican Steven Offenbaker has raised $2500, of which 90% comes from Big Island sources. He faces Eric Weinert in the GOP Primary September 20.

The Democratic race features a showdown between long time Takamine crony Jo Kim and union operative Mark Nakashima. Their donor lists are a study in contrast. Kim has received $7,300 almost entirely from Democrat activists within the district. Nakashima has received $4,850 mostly from Honolulu based unions and union officials. ILWU canvassers are leaving door hangers promoting Nakashima, Takamine and mayoral candidate Billy Kenoi.

An even sharper contrast appears in the Puna House District 4 race. Incumbent Faye Hanohano reports raising $3950—but not one penny of support comes from her own district. She received donations from the American Resort Developers Association, “Big 5” company Alexander and Baldwin, lobbyist G.A. Morris, who represents casino operator Boyd Gaming and lobbyist John Radcliffe who represents prison operator Corrections Corp of America.

Puna community volunteer Fred Blas, the Republican insurgent seeking the HD 4 seat, has out-raised the incumbent, pulling in $5,958.50 from 27 donors--every one of whom is a Big Island resident. In recent weeks Blas hosted hundreds of local residents at two big fundraising dinners--one at Maku’u Farmers Market featuring Councilwoman Emily Naeole and another at Pahoa’s Akebono Theater with Lt. Governor Duke Aiona.

Kailua-Kona HD 6 sees a face off between Republican Andy Smith and the winner of the Democratic Primary. Smith has pulled in $9550 mostly from West Hawai`i sources. George D. Coffman, has raised $3600 from West Hawai`i donors for a Democratic Primary race where he faces off with Maegan MacGregor and Gene T Leslie.

In the North Kona-South Kohala HD 7 Race, Cindy Evans will be facing off with the winner of a Republican primary contest between Waimea businessman Ronald DelaCruz and local leader BJ Kailimai. Kailimai, filed on July 22 and is launching an active campaign but neither Republican had any fundraising to report in the period ending June 30. Evans raised $3,633.11 but like the other incumbents, seven of her eight donations came from O`ahu. Evans didn’t get any union money but she did pick up contributions from lobbyists representing liquor store owners, casinos, and private prison operator CCA.

On Maui, Registered Nurse and hospital advocate Jan Shields is facing off with incumbent Roz Baker for Senate District 5. Baker is infamous for blocking an attempt to build a privately-funded hospital in Kihei. Baker’s fundraising produced $32,835 of which 70% came from outside Maui. Her backers include the same gaming and prison related lobbyists who donated to Hanohano and Evans as well as the American Resort Developers Association, Maui Land and Pineapple, Everett Dowling, drug manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline and several figures tied to the failing Hawai`i Health Systems Corporation.

Shields raised $27,111 from 48 Maui residents and seven off-island donors, including medical doctors and the doctors’ Hawai`i Medical Association PAC.

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