Sunday | October 22, 2017
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Kern pulls plug on Kona fundraiser

HILO — After West Hawaii Today questioned him about it Monday, Puna Councilman Zendo Kern said he is canceling a $500- to $1,000-per-person fundraiser planned for today in Kailua-Kona.

Kern, just three months into his first elective office, on Thursday filed a “notice of intent to hold a fundraiser” with the state Campaign Spending Commission, as required by law. The notice said he would hold a fundraiser from 5 to 8 p.m. at a “home in Kailua-Kona (exact address being finalized).” The office sought, the form said, is his current County Council District 5, which is about 100 miles from Kailua-Kona.

In a telephone interview Monday afternoon, Kern said he planned to cancel the fundraiser because his busy council schedule doesn’t leave him enough time.

He said he’d made the decision over the weekend, but he hadn’t canceled it before his phone interview shortly before 5 p.m. Monday.

The council is meeting in Kona today and Thursday for its regular committee and council sessions.

Asked if holding a fundraiser so early, for so much, so far from his district signaled an intent to run for mayor or other higher office, Kern did not answer directly.

“I love my job. It’s still really early. I love being a council person,” Kern said. “It’s hard to even think about that when there’s so much to do, right here, right now.”

The County Council’s two-year terms are up for election in 2014; the mayoral seat isn’t up for election until 2016. Hawaii law allows candidates to move their campaign war chests with them from office to office in most cases.

Kern said he filed the notice after a group of friends said they’d like to hold a fundraiser for him.

He declined to identify them, and said he’d left the address off the state form because he wasn’t sure at whose house the fundraiser was to have been held.

Gary Kam, general counsel for the Campaign Spending Commission, said an address or name of a business location, such as a restaurant or hotel, is a required part of the form.

“That line is to tell us the location of the fundraiser,” Kam said. “The town is not good enough.”

Kern is the only County Council incumbent filing a fundraiser notice so far this year. And the $500 to $1,000 per plate is pricey by Hawaii Island standards.

In comparison, state Reps. Denny Coffman, Richard Onishi and Nicole Lowen, all Hawaii Island Democrats, have filed notices for $50-per-person fundraisers.

Sen. Gilbert Kahele, D-Hilo, held a $50-per-plate fundraiser in January; Sen. Malama Solomon, D-Waimea, held a $100-per-plate event March 5 and Sen. Josh Green, D-Kona, held a $500-per-plate fundraiser in February.

Kern’s campaign war chest for the 2012 election was on the high end of the range for winning County Council candidates in contested races, which ran from about $15,000 to about $50,000 in campaigns that also included some publicly funded candidates.

Kern collected $40,366 during his campaign, of which $37,502 came from donors giving more than $100, according to reports filed with the Campaign Spending Commission.