Mayoral candidate Mitch Roth charged ahead of the pack raising money in the race for the county’s top spot, collecting more than $148,000, primarily from big-money donors.
Roth was followed by Stacy Higa with $80,994 and Neil Azevedo with $48,891 as top fundraisers in the crowded field challenging incumbent Mayor Harry Kim. Ikaika Marzo came in fourth with $45,565, while Kim, running his typical low-budget campaign, raised $1,410, of which $1,000 came from his wife.
That’s according to reports filed by Thursday’s deadline with the state Campaign Spending Commission for contributions and expenditures as of June 30. The candidates face off in the Aug. 8 primary election. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, the top two proceed to a runoff in the Nov. 3 general election.
West Hawaii Today and the Hawaii Tribune-Herald are featuring a special section on the mayor’s race July 26, just a few days after mail-in ballots are scheduled to arrive in voters’ mailboxes. The section will include all 15 candidates’ answers to questions drawn from community input in collaboration with the Big Island Press Club.
Roth’s contributors include 12 individuals, companies or organizations giving the maximum $4,000. Among those were four unions as well as farmers, heavy industry and automotive service companies. In all, Roth received 46 contributions of $1,000 or more.
“We’re really fortunate to have a lot of people contribute to our campaign. It just shows that people want change and our message has been resonating,” Roth said. “I do believe we have a very broad base of support and we’re just really grateful.”
Although Roth has a more than $50,000 advantage over his closest fundraising competitors, several candidates said more money has been coming in this month to narrow that gap. The next report, for the period July 1-24, is due July 29.
“I raised a lot of money and I spent a lot of money because I started late,” Higa said. “I raised more money in the past two weeks than I did in the campaign (period).”
Higa’s Na Leo employees contributed $10,800 in cash and services to his campaign. Higa is president and CEO of the public television station. None of the station’s equipment was used in the making of his campaign commercials, Higa said.
“They have their own private equipment,” Higa said. “Some of it is better than Na Leo’s equipment.”
Higa said he’s proud of the professionals working at the station and he appreciates their support. In addition, four other donors gave Higa the maximum $4,000, primarily construction companies and real estate agents.
Neil Azevedo, the third top money-raiser, has been on vacation from his job as county Highways Division chief. His top donors include individuals owning companies involved in roadwork, such as $6,660 from owners of Edwin DeLuz Trucking &Gravel LLC. Other donors are trucking companies, recycling and car sales companies.
Azevedo said contributions won’t affect his decisions in the Highways Division, which follows procurement laws, or as mayor, if he’s elected.
“Everything goes out to bid and the lowest bidder gets the job. … It’s tax money and we need to make sure they spend the money wisely,” Azevedo said. “I’m not going to treat anybody better; I’m going to treat everybody the same, everyone eating at the same table.”
Marzo was fourth in fundraising, but he led head and shoulders over the rest of the field in the proportion of smaller donations to large ones. Almost half of Marzo’s money came from donations of $100 or less, compared to 5.48% for Roth, 4.54% for Azevedo and 2.72% for Higa.
“What humbled me most as I saw my campaign gain momentum was the majority of contributors sharing that this was their first time ever contributing to a political candidate,” Marzo said. “Each contribution represents a person; a person so committed to change in our community that they are investing in it, a person with hope, a person with trust that I will advocate for them, their ohana, their values and the future of our dreams.”