Honolulu City Council candidates are spending big on campaigns as elementary school nears

Candidates fighting for three Honolulu City Council seats spent tens of thousands of dollars on campaign materials ranging from social media ads to personalized jar openers in the final few weeks leading up to Saturday’s primary.

The biggest donor over the past month was former councilman Ron Menor, who is up against four other candidates to represent District 8, which includes central Oahu.

Meanwhile, former city prosecutor Matt Weyer overtook his opponent, big-wave surfer Makua Rothman, in terms of raising and spending funds in July when they fought to see the North Shore area on the bipartisan council to represent.

There are three seats on the Honolulu City Council up for grabs in Saturday’s primary. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

Menor spent $63,629 on campaign materials and services from July 1 through July 29, including nearly $4,188 on social media ads and $838 on groceries from Zippy’s, according to recent reports that have been filed with the state’s Campaign Spending Commission. His total spending since the beginning of the term was $248,589, beating all candidates in the three contested city council elections.

Last month he raised $4,000, the maximum allowable donation, from the Hawaii Laborers Political Action Committee, taking his poll total to $501,616.

Menor represented District 9 – the Ewa Beach area – on the city council from 2013 to 2021. But the district lines changed that year, allowing him to run for District 8, which included Waimalu, Newtown, Pearl City, Seaview, Crestview, Waipio Gentry, Koa Ridge, Mililani Town, and Mililani Mauka.

His opponent, Rep. Val Okimoto, meanwhile, said he spent $32,698 in July, for a total of $60,209 over the election period. She spent her money on campaign mailer printing, campaign mailer postage, postage stamps, Facebook ads, and water and bento boxes for volunteers.

She raised $9,484 last month, for a total of $100,073 in the current term.

Keone Simon, who is running for political office for the second time, spent $43,517 more than Okimoto for the entire term – with a total of $103,726. But he only spent $12,056 in July, with the largest reported spend being $3,253 on commercial advertising at KHON.

Simon also raised $8,050 in July for a poll total of $104,396.

In the first seven months of this year, Simon spent $15,000 on mentoring and training services from Hawaii Leadership Solutions, Councilwoman Andria Tupola’s consulting firm. Campaign records also show that Hawaii Leadership Solutions provided him with free mentoring and training in July.

Simon also spent $2,527, totaling more than $21,000 that year, on peer-to-peer SMS from Wilkerson Public Affairs, the consulting firm of Tupola contributor Braedon Wilkerson. Wilkerson’s company also helps Rothman and Republican gubernatorial candidate BJ Penn.

The other two District 8 nominees, Dion Mesta and Charmaine Doran, spent $23,944 and $2,067, respectively, last month.

In the District 2 race, which covers the North Shore, Rothman is the frontrunner in fundraising and spending.

He said he spent $25,048 on entertainment at rallies and professional services last month, totaling $98,126 over the entire election period. In the past seven months he has spent $20,000 on professional services at Hawaii Leadership Solutions and $12,440 on professional services at Wilkerson Public Affairs.

Rothman also raised $17,061 in July for a total of $117,877.

But Weyer upped his game in July, spending $42,848 and raising $26,112 for poll totals of $78,409 and $87,277 so far. Weyer’s campaign spent most of its money printing and mailing literature and newspaper ads last month.

Chad Tsuneyoshi, the ex-husband of outgoing councilor Heidi Tsuneyoshi, reported raising $36,900 last month, bringing the total to the election at $60,010. He spent $6,656 on radio advertising, mailings, a fundraiser and banner ads.

Laie Community Association member Lupe Funaki reported raising $1,543 and spending $60 in the past month.

Racquel Achiu, vice chair of the Farmer and North Shore Neighborhood Board, reported raising $4,374 and spending $5,648 over the past month.

Former Hawaii Democratic Party Chairman Tyler Dos Santos-Tam has outbid and outbid his opponents to represent District 6, which includes portions of Kakaako, Downtown Honolulu, Punchbowl, Papakalea, Pauoa Valley, Nuuanu, Iwilei, Liliha, Aiea Heights, Kalihi and Kalihi Valley.

Dos Santos-Tam reported spending $41,613 in July for a total of $119,501 for the election period.

His top spends over the past month were $14,739 on social media ads and $22,228 on postage and prints for mailers. He also spent $1,051 on promotional jar openers.

“The Kupuna love them and we hope there will be more,” said Dos Santos-Tam.

Dos Santos-Tam raised $15,309 last month for a total of $160,847 or the election period.

Behind Dos Santos-Tam is local musician Nalani Jekins, who reported spending $32,262 in July, for a total of $101,081 this term. Her biggest spend over the past month was $2,000 on digital advertising campaigns. She also spent $205 on Uber rides.

Last month she raised $4,805, for a total of $110,619 for the election period.

Ikaika Hussey, a former union organizer for Unite Here Local 5, a union representing hospitality workers and nurses, spent $23,998 last month mostly on campaign mailings, printing and postage, equating to an election total of $35,719. Hussey raised $8,054 last month for a total of $31,994.

Former Miss Hawaii Traci Toguchi raised $14,288 and spent $19,676 last month; and former congressman Chad Wolke raised $8,200 and spent $17,626 this year. Chance Naauao-Ota, secretary of the Liliha/Puunui/Alewa/Kamehameha Heights Neighborhood Authority, raised $3,674 but has yet to spend any money on his campaign this term.

City Council Chairman Tommy Waters is also running for re-election in the District 4 race, which stretches from Waikiki to Hawaii Kai, but he and challenger Kaleo Nakoa are going straight to the Nov. 8 general election, so they don’t have to until then Submit financial reports October.

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