Kenoi spending betters Kim nearly 10 to 1


HILO — Mayor Billy Kenoi pumped almost $90,000 into his re-election machine between the primary election and Oct. 22, as challenger and former Mayor Harry Kim sprinkled his grass-roots campaign with a tenth of that, according to reports filed Monday with the state Campaign Spending Commission.

Kenoi’s latest report shows his total spending nearing the $600,000 mark. After spending $597,795 on his campaign to date, Kenoi still had $19,880 left — more than Kim has raised his entire campaign.

“We’re just very appreciative and humbled by the support we’ve received,” Kenoi said. “We’re just very thankful, and we’re proud that we’re running a very positive campaign.”

Kim’s self-imposed rule to accept no contribution over $10 has kept his contribution levels low, forcing him to dip into his own money to keep pace. The latest spending report shows he put another $4,000 into his campaign on top of the $5,000 he’d previously invested. That brought his total receipts for the post-primary reporting period to $9,301 and total receipts to $18,666.

“I truly understand the meaning of ‘grass roots,’ now,” Kim said of his band of loyal followers, who seem to be promoting his cause with little coordination or supervision from the campaign.

Kim did have to break his own rule, however, when Hilo supporter George Kimura unexpectedly dropped 250 campaign signs off at his house, requiring him to report a $726 in-kind campaign contribution.

Most of Kim’s signs, however, are being independently made without his knowledge by supporters, resulting in a variety of designs, colors and messages and leading him to quip Tuesday that he ought to open up a sign museum after the election.

Only $19,605 of Kenoi’s contributions so far this campaign come from contributors giving $100 or less, compared to $554,454 from contributors giving more.

How much money does it take to win an election?

“I never thought I’d see those kinds of figures on this island,” Kim said. “You’ve got to admit that is impressive.”

“I think what we’ve raised is enough,” Kenoi said. “We didn’t have any specific goals.”

Kim has always run a low-budget campaign, a policy that saw him elected in 2000 and then re-elected in 2004.

“I said this after my first campaign, ‘If I have to spend a lot of money and resources convincing people I should be re-elected, I don’t need to be re-elected,’” Kim said.

There’s been little if any post-primary polling in the race, with both candidates saying they haven’t engaged in any. Many close to government circles, however, are predicting a close race, based on a three-way primary battle that saw Kenoi taking 18,393 votes, 43.2 percent of the votes cast and Kim garnering 14,803 or 34.7 percent.

The wild card in the General Election is where former candidate Dominic Yagong’s 8,352 votes will land. The County Council chairman threw his support behind Kim.

“Nobody really knows until Election Day,” Kenoi said. “but we feel really good about the response we’ve been seeing.”