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For some candidates, last-minute spending paid off

Victorino spent more than Bissen in last month but finished second, while council frontrunners spent heavily

Various campaign signs hang on a fence in Maui in July. Some last-minute fundraising by candidates may have helped in their primary election races. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Mayor Michael Victorino received an infusion of campaign cash as he out-fundraised and outspent his top challenger in the final weeks prior to the primary election.

But even with the final jolt of funds, Victorino, who is seeking reelection after one term as mayor, finished second on Saturday with 11,747 votes to retired Judge Richard Bissen Jr.’s 13,407 votes. Both advance to the general election on Nov. 8.

During the latest campaign spending reporting period, which ran from July 1 to 29, Victorino brought in $85,577.47 in contributions, his best of any previous reporting period this year, compared to $30,798 brought in by Bissen.

This includes a $15,000 boost Victorino received from son and retired Major League Baseball player Shane Victorino.

In about a month, Victorino spent $171,763.51. Bissen spent $104,36.77, campaign spending reports show.

This is a turnaround from other previous reporting periods — from April 26 to June 30, for example, Bissen raised $252,088, more than four times as much as Victorino, who brought in $62,153.12 for the same period.

In that two-month span, Bissen spent $174,191.64 as compared to Victorino, who spent $83,980.62.

By the end of July, Victorino had $44,819 left over and Bissen had $104,326.77 left.

Spending for Victorino on the last day of the reporting period involved lots of food and beverages for sign wavers, along with “friendraiser” events and about $40,000 for radio advertisements.

Bissen’s spending on the last day of the report involved campaign T-shirts, around $14,000 for radio advertisements along with spending on technical consulting and social media management.

“Some people took their time to consider who they would support in the primary and I believe the late donations reflected this,” Victorino said via email Thursday in regards to the late infusion of cash. “Regardless of the size or timing of any donation, I am grateful for every contribution.”

As to the $15,000 donation from his son Shane, Victorino said: “Campaign spending laws permit donations of up to $50,000 from immediate family members. Shane has generously supported my political campaigns in the past and this one is no different.”

When asked if the spending in weeks prior to the primary was standard or if Victorino felt that he needed to get his message out more, he said: “It’s hard to define ‘normal’ in this post-pandemic period, but I’ve heard that with so many mayoral candidates in the primary, voters needed time to evaluate similarities and differences between candidates. As the incumbent mayor, I relied on my campaign team to manage the advertising program leading up to the primary.”

Some of the large and more notable donations to Victorino this reporting period included $4,000 each from Bert A. Kobayashi Jr., partner/managing director of Kobayashi Group on Oahu; Alika Mau, president, Waikiki Restaurant Group; Ernest Lee, real estate investor in Las Vegas; Friends of Kirk Caldwell (former Honolulu City and County mayor); Hawaii Firefighters Association; and Paul Cheng, builder, Revalen Development, based in Texas.

Benchmark Hospitality LLC Turtle Bay Resort donated $3,000, and $2,000 each was given by Gary Oda, president, Allied Builders System on Oahu; Susan Kobayashi; and Thurston Robinson, owner of Maui Linen Supply.

Late contributions (after the reporting period) of $4,000 each came from three Maui Health-Kaiser Permanente physicians, Ian Edwards, Mark R. Bell and Lee Weiss. A $2,000 late donation came from Michael Rembis, CEO and president of Maui Health.

Victorino also received a late contribution of $1,000 from Max Sword, of Max J. Sword & Associates LLC of Oahu.

Sword, the former Honolulu Police Commission chairman from 2016 to 2018, is awaiting trial with two other former Honolulu city officials over allegations they conspired to hide the source of public funds used to get former Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha to retire during a corruption investigation.

As for the Sword donation, Victorino said: “I’ve known Max Sword for many years and he has been a long-time supporter. I did not solicit his support; his donation came through my campaign website. I am aware of his indictment in January, but I have no personal knowledge of his involvement in HPD or the City and County of Honolulu.”

Some of Bissen’s larger donations included $4,000 each from Preston Chang, developer with Revalen Development LLC in Texas, and Raymond Michaels, manager of Maui Plumbing Inc.; $3,000 from HGEA Political Contribution Account; $2,500 from Patricia Chevalier; and $2,000 each from Tamar Goodfellow and Jonathan B. Kindred, manager, KR Consulting, in addition to a late donation of $2,000 from Lanai Resorts LLC.

COUNCIL SPENDING

In contested Maui County Council races in the primary election, political newcomer Buddy Nobriga, who is seeking the Kahului residency seat, out-fundraised the council frontrunners in the primary election during the last reporting period.

In about a month, Nobriga raised $30,201.05. He began with $13,440.46 cash on hand, spent $22,990.61 and took out a loan for $4,000. At the end of the period he had a debt of $4,000 and had $16,650.90 remaining.

Some of his larger donations came from an uncle, John Kim; Masahito Yumoto, Hawaii state manager of Casamigos Spirit Co.; and Edward Freedman, chairman of Stable Road Capital, all of whom donated $2,000 each.

A late donation of $2,000 came from Joseph Saunders of San Francisco.

Nobriga came up second in the running for the Kahului seat with 8,738 votes to incumbent Tasha Kama’s 8,991 votes. They both head to the general election.

Kama began with $18,610.70 cash on hand for the period, raised $4,775, spent $3,763.11 and had $19,151.24 remaining. She also had $471.35 in debts still owed.

One of her top donors during the period was the Hawaii Laborers PAC, which donated $2,000.

Another political newcomer, Nohe U’u-Hodgins, who is seeking the Makawao-Haiku-Paia seat on the council, also continued to bring in contributions rivaling her competitors.

U’u-Hodgins began with $38,757.94 cash on hand at the beginning of the period, received $23,165 in contributions and spent $43,065.40. She was left with $18,857.54.

Some of her larger donations included $2,000 each from Patrick Kobayashi, an executive with the Kobayashi Group, along with Operating Engineers Local Union No. 3.

Late donations of $2,000 each came from Mike Rompel, restaurant operator of Posso Pizza Inc., Thomas Johnson, Sarah Johnson, United Public Workers Political Action Committee and Joseph Saunders.

U’u-Hodgins had the most votes for the seat with 11,922. Second was Nara Boone, who received 7,608 votes while receiving and spending far less.

Boone had $1,236.03 cash on hand, received $2,002.38 in contributions and spent $1,024.53 during the period. She was left with $2,213.88.

Among her contributions was $387.38 from the Maui Pono Network for advertising, media and collateral materials, banners, ohana cards, video editing and social media management, along with $600 from Khalilah Birdsong in Georgia.

In the race for the South Maui residency seat, Tom Cook also out-fundraised and outspent primary opponent Robin Knox, whom he will face in the general election.

Cook began with $17,179.87 cash on hand, had $25,496.71 in contributions, spent $29,289.52 and was left with $13,387.06.

Knox began with $4,353.14, received $4,609.49, spent $5,693.55 and was left with $3,269.08.

Some of her notable contributions came from Maui state Rep. Tina Wildberger, who donated a total of $318.61, as well as Robert Wintner of Snorkel Bob’s and Sue Perley, who both donated $500.

Some of Cook’s larger donations of $2,000 each came from Patrick K. Kobayashi of Kobayashi Group, Kris Kobayashi, and Hawaii Laborers. A late donation of $2,000 came from United Public Workers.

Council Member Yuki Lei Sugimura, who holds the Upcountry residency seat, had a large campaign war chest remaining with $70,238.24. She began the period with $73,908.55 cash on hand, raised $14,700 and spent $18,370.31.

Jordan Hocker, who will challenge her in the general election, began with $826.96 cash on hand, raised $2,787.38 and spent $440.62 for a surplus of $2,699.72.

Sugimura received 20,360 votes in the primary election while Jordan Hocker was second with 7,517 votes.

Some of Sugimura’s larger donations of $2,000 each came from Stephen J. Goodfellow of Goodfellow Bros., Tamar Goodfellow and Hawaii Laborers PAC.

Some of Hocker’s larger donations of $1,000 came from business owner Mark Redeker and Sulara James.

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

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