Huge gap in Green, Aiona Hawaii gubernatorial campaign war chests

Sep. 16—Former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Vicky Cayetano spent more than $3.2 million in her failed party primary election, including $2.35 million that she loaned her campaign, according to the latest campaign disclosure statements.

Former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Vicky Cayetano spent more than $3.2 million in her failed party primary election, including $2.35 million that she loaned her campaign, according to the latest campaign disclosure statements.

Cayetano's campaign ended with a deficit of more than $2.3 million, essentially the amount of the loan.

She attracted 52, 447 votes, or 20.1 % of primary ballots, putting her in second place behind Lt. Gov. Josh Green.

Green moves onto the Nov. 8 general election ballot against Republican James "Duke " Aiona, a two-time lieutenant governor, Circuit Court judge, deputy corporation counsel and deputy prosecutor. Aiona is making his third run for the governor's office after winning three Republican primaries.

Green, like Cayetano, spent more than $3 million in his primary race, compared with Aiona, who spent just over $73, 000.

Following their primary victories, Green was heading into the race against Aiona with a war chest worth just shy of $516, 000 as of the last campaign spending disclosure period of Aug. 13, which coincided with primary election day.

Aiona, by comparison, reported $5, 333 in leftover campaign donations heading into the general election.

Neither Green nor Aiona had received any loans as of Aug. 13.

Outgoing U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele spent more than $305, 000 in his unsuccessful campaign for governor and ended up with a surplus of $2, 704.

Kahele finished in third place in the Democratic primary with 37, 738 votes, or 14.5 % of the votes cast.

He famously launched his campaign in May promising not to accept campaign donations from political action committees, super PACs, corporations and mainland donors as he had in the past, saying he had become part of the problem.

Instead, Kahele pledged to accept only donations of $100 or less, hoping to qualify for an additional $208, 000 in state matching funds.

But Kahele to file a sworn and notarized affidavit that he would follow mandatory spending limits, making him ineligible for state campaign funds.

In the Democratic primary, Green received 158, 161 votes, or an overwhelming 60.6 %.

Aiona received only 37, 608 votes, or 45.7 % of the Republican primary votes.

Aiona not only will have to attract far more votes—including from Democrats and independents—but also will need to do it with far less money than Green.

Aiona told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Thursday : "Obviously, if the discrepancy is $5, 000 to $500, 000, we don't have a chance if you're just looking at the money. But that's just not true. It's not all about the money. You can't buy your way. ... We wouldn't be in this if we didn't think we could win it.

"We've been battling uphill, " said Aiona, who entered the gubernatorial race on the last day to declare his candidacy. "We came out late. Our message came out late but we did it."

Aiona said he and Hawaii Republicans are not focused on national hot-button issues that have divided Republicans, such as the latest GOP bill by South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham to ban abortions across the country after 15 weeks.

"There's no relationship between that and what we're facing as a state, " Aiona said. "I can't be focused on that."

Instead, Aiona said his emphasis is on helping working families, especially with getting them into affordable housing, and addressing the military Red Hill water crisis.

Lynn Finnegan, chair of the Republican Party of Hawaii, said Aiona's chance at success will rely on old-fashioned, boots-on-the-ground, door-to-door campaigning.

"There's a huge difference in the war chests, " Finnegan said.

Volunteers will help campaign for Aiona on all islands, backed by the Republican Party of Hawaii and an old-school message of helping families through a pragmatic Republican approach, Finnegan said.

"Abortion ? We know that's not the biggest issue for Hawaii, " Finnegan said. "Our focus will be on the cost of living and the economy. The last thing that we want is to distract us from the most important issue at hand, and that is inflation. Republicans do so much better when it comes to the economy and cost-of-living issues.

"If you just look, the last time that we had good policies for businesses and our economy was ... with a Republican governor (Linda Lingle ) with Duke Aiona as lieutenant governor, " Finnegan said. "There was an 'open for business' sign for Hawaii, and people trusted that."

With just over $5, 000 left in campaign funds, Finnegan said she is unaware of any Aiona campaign marketing plans such as commercials and advertisements.

"But the party will do ads, " Finnegan said.

Mostly, she said, "there will be just a lot of sweat equity, good old-fashioned door-to-door campaigning."