HILO — Mayor Billy Kenoi spent $21.50 for each vote he garnered in his re-election bid, more than twice what was spent per vote in a contentious Honolulu mayoral race, according to final campaign spending reports filed Thursday.
In sharp contrast, former Mayor Harry Kim, who came up just 1,438 votes — 2.3 percent of the total vote — short in his challenge, spent just 79 cents per vote.
Kim on Friday declined to second-guess whether more money could have pushed him over the edge in the hotly contested race. He said he may not have gotten his message out to as many West Hawaii voters as he’d have liked to, and perhaps more money could have helped there.
Kenoi didn’t lose a single precinct to his former boss Kim in North Kona, North Kohala or South Kohala. The more populous areas of South Kona also went his way, according to a West Hawaii Today analysis of precinct-by-precinct results.
Kim’s main concern now is that big money will dominate Big Island races in the future.
“I hope this does not dissuade people into thinking you need a lot of money to win,” Kim said. “I don’t think this is any kind of precedent. I hope not anyway.”
Kenoi solidified his money lead in the final weeks leading up to the Nov. 6 election, adding $66,055 to bring his total war chest to $683,731. He spent $683,774, leaving his campaign a negative balance of $43.33, according to his report to the state Campaign Spending Commission.
Kim garnered another $2,670 in the period from Oct. 22 to Nov. 6, bringing his total campaign fund to $21,336. Of that more than $11,000 was his own money. Kim spent $23,950, leaving a negative balance of $4,371 in his account.
Kenoi said he, as in his 2008 campaign, focused on sending a positive message of achievements. Money does help get that message out, he said, but it also humbled him to see the contributions add up.
“People who believe in your message, want to give you support,” Kenoi said. “Some people support through financial contributions, some through volunteering their time for phone banks, sign waving,” Kenoi said. “All of it matters. All of it helps. All of it is part of running a successful campaign.”
Big spenders dominated Kenoi’s campaign, with 96.7 percent of his money coming from contributions of $100 or more. On the other hand, 93 percent of Kim’s contributions came from those giving less than $100. Kim’s self-imposed rule to accept no contribution over $10 kept his contribution levels low, forcing him to dip into his own money to keep pace.