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PAC mismailing baffles council candidates

July 30, 2014 - 8:59am

Dennis “Fresh” Onishi was in for a surprise when he checked his mail Saturday.

There, in his mailbox, was a campaign flier for County Council candidate Aaron Chung.

Granted, campaign fliers during election season certainly aren’t rare. But Onishi, the council District 3 incumbent, doesn’t live in District 2, where Chung is waging a spirited campaign against four other contenders for the seat opened up by the term limit of Council Chairman J Yoshimoto.

“I looked at it and said, ‘This is my district,’” Onishi said. “I’m hoping it didn’t go out to the whole district because it’s kind of confusing.”

Onishi is running unopposed for his fourth council term, but his name is on the ballot, and he has been campaigning to build a strong base of support.

Chung said he didn’t receive the mailer, although he’s had reports from residents in both District 2 and District 3 who said they received it. It’s possible, he said, judging from who received them, that the fliers were mistakenly sent to state House District 2, rather than council District 2.

The Chung fliers were paid for by Workers for a Better Hawaii, a political action committee affiliated with the Hawaii Government Employees Association, the state’s largest labor union. HGEA represents state and county employees.

The PAC lists only a Honolulu Post Office box and did not report a telephone number on its filings with the state Campaign Spending Commission. An HGEA spokeswoman did not return a telephone message by press time Monday.

The flier describes Chung as “A lawyer. A family man. A former council member,” and includes an endorsement from Ian Takashiba, an HGEA division chief identified only as a Hilo resident.

Other candidates in the District 2 race are Shane Gali, William John Halversen, Margarita “Dayday” Hopkins and Kerri Marks.

If nothing else, the out-of-district mailings have further fueled speculation that Chung, who served eight years on the County Council until he was term-limited 10 years ago, is trying to re-establish name recognition in advance of a 2016 mayoral bid.

“It’s something that’s gaining traction. It’s gaining a lot of traction,” Chung said. “But it’s not coming from me.”

Chung said the persistent speculation seems to be coming from two camps: Those who want him to run for mayor, and those who are trying to discredit his campaign for a council seat as only a stepping stone to the top county office. Council members serve two-year terms.

“I’m not going to foreclose the possibility of running for mayor,” Chung said. “I don’t see it. But I cannot say absolutely not.”