HILO — Money continues flowing into campaign coffers for Hawaii’s congressional delegation, even for Senate candidates who have several years before their next election.
The only U.S. House race where Big Island voters get to participate is the 2nd Congressional District race, where Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has said she won’t be running for re-election in order to focus on a presidential bid, and two Democrats have filed with the Federal Elections Commission.
The district, which covers rural Oahu and all of the neighbor islands, is expected to draw more contenders before the 2020 election, as seats in Washington open up only rarely. Currently, however, only state Sen. Kai Kahele, a Hilo Democrat, and political neophyte David Cornejo of Kailua, Oahu, also a Democrat, have registered with the FEC.
“For a long time I have been disappointed and frustrated with the representation Hawaii has had. I love this state and its people. We deserve better than we have gotten, and we need quality representation in Washington,” Cornejo said on his campaign page. “After years of complaining that someone should do something, I felt that if no one else would, that I would.”
He couldn’t be reached Friday for further comment.
Cornejo’s campaign hasn’t reported any money with the FEC yet. But Kahele, who announced his candidacy in January, has reported collecting $501,670 as of Sept. 30, the most recent filing. He has $370,686 cash on hand.
Kahele has also been gathering endorsements, and on Oct. 31 announced a slew of state and local officials who are endorsing him. He also has the backing of former Hawaii Govs. John Waihe’e, Ben Cayetano and Neil Abercrombie, his campaign’s honorary co-chairmen.
“October turned into a banner month for our campaign. I am grateful and humbled to receive the strong support of these key community leaders,” Kahele said in a press release. “They come from every corner of the state and span the entire political spectrum. While they may not agree on every issue, I am proud that they stand united in their support of our grassroots movement and my bid for Congress.”
Kahele’s campaign did not respond Friday to voice or email messages seeking further comment.
In Hawaii’s only other congressional seat, District 1, incumbent Ed Case has raised $196,568 and has $216,265 cash on hand. The 1st Congressional District covers urban Honolulu. No candidates have filed with the FEC to oppose Case in the 2020 election so far.
Hawaii’s Senate seats don’t come up for election until 2022 and 2024, and no one yet has filed with the FEC to collect money to oppose them.
But that hasn’t kept incumbent Sen. Brian Schatz, who faces re-election in 2022, or Sen. Mazie Hirono, who easily won re-election in 2018 and next faces an election in 2024, from collecting thousands. Both senators are Democrats.
Schatz collected $563,394 during the first nine months of 2019, and currently has a campaign war chest of more than $3 million. Hirono received $235,350 during the same period, and has $895,737 in cash on hand.
Breakdowns of campaign contributions are also revealing.
Kahele, for example, collected 95% of his total campaign money from individuals, rather than PACs and other committees, compared to 86% for Hirono and 76% for Schatz.
Kahele also led the way when it comes to contributions from Hawaii rather than other states. In Kahele’s case, 80% of his 549 contributions came from Hawaii, compared to 43% of 1,407 contributions for Schatz and 26% of 1,716 contributions for Hirono.