Maui County mayoral candidates file campaign spending reports

Guzman has the most cash on hand, with Victorino and Cochran next in line

An early look at the finances of Maui County mayoral candidates Don Guzman, ... -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Maui County Council Member Don Guzman reported campaign income of more than $32,000 and expenditures in excess of $22,000 in the second half of 2017 in his bid to succeed Alan Arakawa as mayor.

Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission records show Guzman, now in his third two-year term in the council’s Kahului residency seat, had $20,680 cash on hand in the first half of last year. Then, from June 1 to Dec. 31 last year, he took in total receipts of $32,568, bringing his total campaign war chest last year to $53,248, records show.

But he also had total expenditures of $22,207, giving him cash on hand of $31,041, his campaign reported. Subtracting a $5,000 loan left his campaign with a surplus of $26,041.

Guzman announced his candidacy for mayor during a Sept. 14 fundraiser that celebrated his 48th birthday. Guzman pulled nomination papers for mayor on Feb. 1, the first day candidates could do so.

Also checking out papers for mayor were former Wailuku-Waihee-Waikapu Council Member Mike Victorino, West Maui Council Member Elle Cochran, Wailuku resident and former Council Member Ricordo “Rick” Medina and Kahului resident and frequent Maui News letter writer Ori Kopelman.

Elle Cochran and ... -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Victorino, 65, who left the County Council two years ago after a limit of five terms from 2007 to 2016, announced his candidacy in November after former Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui bowed out from contention in the mayor’s race.

Victorino’s campaign spending report shows he had cash on hand of $6,734 in the first half of 2017 and then added in the second half of last year $37,145 (rounding to the nearest dollar), giving his campaign an income subtotal of $43,879. Then, he reported total expenditures of $23,444, leaving his campaign with a cash surplus of $20,435.

Guzman didn’t express overconfidence in being the candidate with the most funds as of the end of last year. He said that while campaign funds are important, they’re not the be all and end all.

“Some candidates have an enormous amount of money and still lose, so money isn’t everything,” he said.

Guzman said his campaigns’ strength over the years has been in a strong “ground game,” drawing enthusiastic supporters to wave signs on the roadside or canvass neighborhoods.

... Mike Victorino gives some insight into the respective strengths of their campaigns. They filed financial disclosure reports recently with the Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission. -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

“I’ve always felt we’ve had a lot of support throughout the years,” he said. And, since his last campaign for council, “we’ve never missed a beat. The engine’s still running.”

Still, it’s necessary to have money to run a campaign and purchase signs, T-shirts, advertising, food for supporters and pay to lease or rent a campaign headquarters,” he said.

Guzman said he plans to seek matching campaign funds from the state, as he has in the past, to fund his drive for the Mayor’s Office. Taking matching funds means agreeing to spending limits, he said.

Those limits are determined by a formula set by state law that involves multiplying a statutory amount for a given office by the number of registered voters in a given district in the previous general election.

Overall, “I feel that I’m gaining momentum; money will be a factor, but not (decisive) in the end result,” Guzman said.

Victorino said he didn’t think his campaign was at too much a disadvantage for having approximately $5,600 less than Guzman in surplus cash on hand at the end of last year.

“I think we have to work harder,” he said. “I don’t think any of us (mayoral candidates) has raised a lot of money.”

And, he said it’s early in the campaign, and his mayoral campaign was gearing up to raise as much as $400,000 to $500,000, judging from what’s been raised historically during contests for the county’s chief executive office.

“I’m not sure if I need that much,” he said. “I’m not uncomfortable where I’m at.”

He noted that he recently opened his campaign headquarters on Lower Main Street in Wailuku and has been throwing away Victorino-for-council signs to make way for those for mayor.

Victorino added that he will meet soon with his campaign finance committee to go over a budget plan for the entire campaign.

When asked if his son, former professional baseball player Shane Victorino, would contribute to his father’s campaign, Mike Victorino said he hasn’t asked him, but “he has told me he’s going to support me in every way possible.”

Victorino said he checked with state campaign spending officials about three months ago and asked what the contribution limit would be for an immediate family member, such as his son. The answer was $50,000, he said.

“That’s the most one family member can put in,” he said.

Whatever the situation, Victorino said his campaign would operate above board.

“We’re never going to do anything unethical, improper or illegal,” he said.

Cochran, the West Maui council member since 2011, reported having cash on hand in the first half of 2017 of $1,667, then adding in the second half of the year $78,648 for total income of $80,315. Her filing shows total expenditures last year of $70,183, giving her a surplus of $10,132.

Cochran’s contribution records show she contributed $51,662 of her own funds, including $40,662 in loan forgiveness for previous campaigns. Her husband, Wayne Cochran, owner of Maui Surfboards, contributed $6,000.

For years, Cochran’s campaign has shown large deficits from her personal loans.

In a written statement, Cochran said she has clarified her campaign reporting with the Campaign Spending Commission to show that the reported “loans” were self-financing of her campaigns with her husband.

“We never intended to reimburse ourselves with campaign contributions, which is why it has appeared as a deficit on my disclosure report all of these years,” Elle Cochran said.

There are no contribution limits for a candidate using his or her personal funds.

Kopelman’s most recent campaign spending report was filed in September 2014. It showed he had no campaign funds at that time.

The commission has no current campaign spending records for Medina.

* Brian Perry can be reached at bperry@mauinews.com.

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