First-time candidate tops council races in donations

U‘u-Hodgins pulls in $63K; Nobriga out-fundraises Kahului incumbent

Campaign signs compete for attention in Wailuku earlier this month. Some of the biggest fundraisers in this year’s primary election for the Maui County Council include first-time candidate Nohe U‘u-Hodgins, who led the pack with nearly $63,000 in contributions; Council Member Yuki Lei Sugimura, who brought in over $36,000; South Maui candidate Tom Cook, who received nearly $31,000; and Buddy James Nobriga, who garnered nearly $23,000, nearly double the incumbent he’s challenging in the Kahului race, Tasha Kama. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photos

First-time political candidate Nohe U’u-Hodgins bested all primary election candidates for the Maui County Council in terms of fundraising, netting around $63,000 since she filed for office on May 13.

U’u-Hodgins, who is running for the Maui County Council’s Makawao-Haiku-Paia residency seat, spent $24,410.61 and had $38,726.74 left when the last campaign spending reporting period ended June 30.

“I was most definitely surprised as I think any first-time candidate would be,” she said. “I received in-kind donations so lots of people are willing to support me in whatever way they can.”

Among her notable and larger donations are from developers and local unions, including $2,000 each from Michael Fergus and Alex Fergus of Fergus & Co. Commercial Real Estate; $2,000 each from Goodfellow Bros. construction family members Shay Goodfellow, Chad Goodfellow, Tamar Goodfellow and Steve Goodfellow; and $2,000 each from Hope Builders, Lanai Resorts and Benchmark Hospitality of Hawaii LLC.

She also received $1,000 each from the Plumbers & Pipefitters Political Action Committee, ILWU Local 142, F&H Construction and Shan Tsutsui, former Hawaii lieutenant governor and current president of Mahi Pono.

Campaign signs show support for county and state candidates.

U’u-Hodgins, the daughter of carpenter union representative Bruce U’u, said she is “proud” to have donations from “our working class people,” such as plumbers, electricians, operators and carpenters.

“It does mean a lot to me to have their endorsement,” U’u-Hodgins said. “Hawaii has a long history with unions, labor unions especially and they do a lot to contribute to our every day life and these are working class people. It really does matter to me.”

When asked about receiving donations from developers whose projects may one day cross council members’ desks, she said, “Home builders and unions support me in my goal for creating affordable and work force housing for our residents.”

“I have received donations from people of all walks of life. Those donating to my campaign are fully aware that everything will be reported to the Campaign Spending Commission,” U’u-Hodgins said.

Dave DeLeon had the second-highest contribution total in the Makawao-Haiku-Paia race with $17,763.54. He spent $7,720.51 and had $10,043.03 left over.

DeLeon said he’s asked around and heard that a candidate in a countywide race needs at least $30,000 in campaign funds “to do it reasonably.” This includes paying for things such as advertising and flights to Molokai and Lanai.

“It requires money and there’s going to be some people saying ‘he’s taking money from developers,’ and here’s the answer to that, ‘yes,’ because we are depending on them to build houses,” he said. “If we don’t have developers building houses, then we are not getting out of this crisis.”

“It doesn’t mean that I owe anybody anything. There is no quid-pro-quo here,” he said. “But these folks are showing their support for my campaign.”

Some of his notable contributions include $2,000 each from Hope Builders and developer Everett Dowling, along with $1,000 from former Maui County Mayor and Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle. DeLeon was an executive assistant to Lingle when she was mayor.

Other candidates in the Makawao-Haiku-Paia race trailed U’u-Hodgins and DeLeon.

Aram Armstrong received $262 in contributions and spent $529.69. He was left with a deficit of $267.69.

Nara Boone had $2,816 in contributions, spent $1,579.97 and was left with $1,236.03.

Daniel Smith had $300 in contributions, spent $200 and was left with $291.07. He also had other receipts of $191.07 of his own money.


In the council’s Kahului residency seat race, first-time candidate Buddy James Nobriga brought in double the contributions of incumbent Tasha Kama.

Nobriga garnered $22,854.20 in contributions during the period ending June 30, compared to Kama’s $11,400.

Nobriga spent $10,913.74 and was left with $7,940.46.

Some of his larger $2,000 donations came from Lanai Resorts, Local 630 Cement Finishers and Plasterers’ Local 630, real estate agent Deanna Davis, Monique Butterfield and Isabella Bissen, administrative assistant at Parents and Children Together. Bissen’s husband, Richard Bissen Jr., is running for Maui County mayor.

In an email, Nobriga said, “I am so grateful to those who have supported me both financially and with their time, especially family and friends.”

Addressing the amount of funding he received, Nobriga said that “I would not correlate funds donated to my campaign as an indication of how votes will go considering there are a lot of candidates in our district.”

“If elected, I will approach my decision making on knowledge, facts, history, integrity, community input, and good intentions in order to make the best decisions for Maui Nui,” he later added.

Kama had $18,139.35 left in her campaign war chest, the largest amount among the other five competitors. She spent $3,240.99.

Among her larger contributors were $2,000 each from developer Everett Dowling, Tamar Goodfellow, ILWU Local 142 Hawaii PAC and the J. Kalani English Election Committee.

English was sentenced July 5 to just over three years in federal prison for taking thousands of dollars in bribes to influence legislation in cesspools. When asked about the donation from his committee, Kama said that she has known English for about 40 years, since English, Kama and others started the Native Hawaiian initiative Ka La Hui on Maui.

“Well, we go do stupid kine stuff that get us in trouble, that’s one thing, but the relationships still stands,” she said of her connection to English.

She added that English called her wanting to buy two tickets to her fundraiser and asked Kama what her constituents would think.

“I understand where people are coming from, that the money is tainted, that what he did was wrong. I said ‘you know Kalani,’ … you admitted you were wrong, you got caught, so, you take care of it, you own up to it, and you pay the penalty for that,” Kama said.

“I told him I did not foresee him donating to my campaign as being malicious.”

She felt that each should be held accountable for their own actions.

“I end up doing something, maybe sending the boat the wrong way and I embarrass people, that’s on me. … What he did is on him,” she said.

Kama noted that she understands that English is not planning to seek another elected office and will be terminating his campaign committee.

She said when the election is done, any remaining funds that have not been used for eligible expenses are received by the Hawaii Election Campaign Fund. This is used to support candidates using public funding for their campaigns.

Other candidates in the Kahului race include:

• Carol Lee Kamekona, who received $583.26 in contributions. She spent $2,969.04 and had $10.99 left over. She had $2,396.51at the beginning of the reporting period.

• Cara Flores, who received $2,547.99 and spent $6,509.72. She also had a loan of $5,000. She was left with a deficit of $3,637.86 at the end of the reporting period.

• Tina Pedro, who received $2,300 and spent $700.44. She had a loan of $1,250.44 and was left with $1,599.56.

• Jack Schwartz, who received $442.20 and spent $335.97. He was left with $386.23. Schwartz began the reporting period with $280.

• Keoni Watanabe, who had no contributions but spent $25 of his own money. He was left with no money at the end of the period.


In the South Maui residency council race, Tom Cook led with contributions of $30,905.59. He spent $15,151.29 and was left with $17,179.87.

Some of his larger contributions included $2,000 each from the Hawaii Regional Council of Carpenters, ILWU Local 142, Lanai Resorts and developer Everett Dowling.

Fellow candidate Robin Knox received $13,375, spent $9,021.87 and had $4,353.14 left.

She got $2,000 each from Council Member Kelly King and Michael Williams, president of Maui Tomorrow.

Dennis O’Shea was left with a deficit of $1,557.48 after spending that amount. He had no contributions during the reporting period.


Council Member Yuki Lei Sugimura, who holds the Upcountry residency seat, had the most funds left in her war chest among the council primary candidates at the end of the reporting period with $73,908.55. She began with $53,338.25, received $36,223.52 and spent $15,714.25.

Her contributions include $2,000 each from the Plumbers & Pipefitters PAC, Local Union 1186 IBEW PAC Fund, Hawaii LECET Pac Fund, Hope Builders, ILWU Local 142 Hawaii PAC account and MTP Operating Co. LLC.

Challenger Jordan Hocker had contributions of $2,412. She spent $1,900.04 and had $352.96 left in her campaign coffers.

Another candidate seeking to take Sugimura’s seat, Renee Cruz, had contributions of $100 and had $100 left at the end of the reporting period. Cruz spent $1,830.86 of her own money.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.


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