Spending soars in special election race for City Council seat

Updated: Mar. 14, 2019 at 6:15 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Only 22 votes separated them in the November general election, but nearly $70,000 separates them for next month’s special election.

A Hawaii News Now analysis of campaign spending records shows that Tommy Waters is outspending Trevor Ozawa nearly three-to-one for the race for the east Honolulu City Council seat.

“It’s a pretty dramatic lead and it does give a good indication that he is going to be very competitive in this race,” said University of Hawaii political science professor Colin Moore.

An examination of electioneering reports filed with the Campaign Spending Commission show that since last month, Waters has spent about $102,000 in newspaper, television, radio and direct mail ads.

By contrast, Ozawa has spent about $35,000.

That doesn’t include $22,700 in ads that the United Public Workers union is spending to promote his campaign. Other unions are likely to throw their support for Waters in the coming weeks, sources have said.

Since January when the state Supreme Court invalidated Ozawa’s razor-thin victory in the general election and ordered a new one, Waters said more voters are willing to support his campaign.

“I think people aren’t afraid to donate to my campaign. Maybe they were before the general election but now that there is no incumbent. I think it’s much more competitive," he said.

But Ozawa thinks most of the money is coming from the public employee unions and supporters of Mayor Kirk Caldwell, whom he’s clashed with in the past.

“This election should be about the people, not the powerful, not the super PACs and not the mayor and that’s exactly where this money is coming from," he said.

The spending figures are a reverse of what happened in last year’s election. Ozawa spent a total of $530,000 while Waters spent $212,000, state Campaign Spending records show.

A more complete report on the candidates’ campaign finances is due on April 3.

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