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Kahele renews vow to reject special interests in Democratic primary race for governor

Gubernatorial Kai Kahele doubled down Monday on his vow to reject special interest money in the upcoming Democratic primary.
Published: Jun. 20, 2022 at 5:56 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Gubernatorial Kai Kahele doubled down Monday on his vow to reject special interest money in the upcoming Democratic primary.

The Big Island Congressman applied for the state matching campaign funds program after he raised more than $104,000 in grassroots contributions during the past 38 days.

“Our campaign is fueled by everyday people,” he said.

“It is fueled by grassroots donors who believe it is time for change in Hawaii, who are tired of the status quo, who are tired of the rot and corruption in our government.”

Kahele is eligible for up to $204,000 in matching public funds as long as he agrees to spend less than $2.1 million during the primary. He also said he will only accept contributions of $100 or less. “We are also not accepting contributions from corporations, special interests, lobbyists, or union PACs,” Kahele said.

It’s an about-face for Kahele, who received nearly half of his campaign money when he was in the state Legislature from corporate interests.

When he was elected to Congress in 2020, about 28% of his campaign money came from political action committees.

“I realized I was part of the problem and I am trying to change it,” he said.

But Kahele will have to play considerable catch-up as his Democratic opponents have raised hundreds of thousand of dollars more than he has.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green — the frontrunner in the money race — has more than $1.1 million in his campaign coffers while businesswoman Vicky Cayetano has raised more than $665,000.

“It’s going to be tough because ... he started his campaign so late, he has fewer financial resources. On all the fundamentals, he’s behind, " said Colin Moore, University of Hawaii political science professor.

The primary is less two months away but Kahele said he’s confident he’ll wind up ahead with voters.

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