In Hawaii race for Congress, Hanabusa has edge in funding
By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Government Writer
State Senate President Colleen Hanabusa has opened a fundraising advantage on her rivals in the May special election for Congress and can count on additional resources from U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye and the state's powerful labor unions in the closing weeks of the campaign.
Hanabusa, a Democrat, has raised $712,000 through March, including more than $459,250 in the past three months.
Honolulu City Councilman Charles Djou, a Republican, has raised $692,000, including $297,600 in the past quarter.
Former Congressman Ed Case, a Democrat, has raised $400,000, with $177,000 coming in the past quarter.
Several private polls have shown Case either leading or even with Djou, with Hanabusa trailing. Hanabusa's fundraising edge may help her bridge the gap through campaign advertising and a grassroots get-out-the-vote operation in the all-mail special election.
"I think it's going to have an enormous effect," Dan Boylan, a University of Hawai'i-West O'ahu history professor and political analyst, said of the impact of fundraising. "These guys are close.
"The more money she's got, the better chance she has to pull even."
Along with the campaign money that comes with the endorsements from Inouye and U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, Hanabusa can rely on grassroots help from the Hawaii Government Employees Association, the Hawaii State Teachers Association, the United Public Workers, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and other labor unions that prefer her to Case.
"I think it's indicative of the level of support and the fact that people are rallying around our campaign," Hanabusa said. "What the money does not reflect is the amount of field support and grassroots support that the campaign has."
Djou had more cash on hand at the end of March — $491,900 — than both Hanabusa ($328,700) and Case ($214,000), giving the Republican more firepower at his disposal.
But the tactical benefit could be washed away by independent expenditures by national Democrats targeting Djou. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which has considered backing Case, has already spent $83,860 on campaign ads in the Islands critical of Djou and another ad buy is imminent, sources say.
Inouye has given $100,000 to the DCCC that can be used to criticize Djou or boost Democrats.
The Democratic National Committee released a new video yesterday attacking Djou for his opposition to the federal economic stimulus package.
National Republicans have provided Djou with tactical, staff and fundraising help, but the National Republican Congressional Committee has yet to match the Democrats with campaign ads.
In contrast, the NRCC has invested heavily in campaign ads in a May special election for Congress in Pennsylvania, where Republicans may have a better chance of snatching an open seat than in Hawai'i.
"I am confident that we are going to have the resources to get our message out," Djou said.
Republicans have compared Djou to U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, the Republican who won an unlikely victory in a special election in traditionally Democratic Massachusetts in January.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, potential GOP presidential contenders in 2012, have endorsed Djou and have asked their donors to help with fundraising.
Djou has criticized the DCCC for its "outside interference" in the campaign but he said that was based on the content of the ads, not the fact that national Democrats were interested in the Islands.
"I am running a campaign for Hawai'i," Djou said. "I'm not going to be a tool for the Mainland operatives or the local machine."
Case's campaign expected to have a distinct cash disadvantage, given Hanabusa's support from the party's establishment and labor unions and the simmering resentment among traditional Democrats over his unsuccessful primary challenge to Akaka in 2006. Case also trailed in fundraising against Akaka, but was able to raise enough money to be competitive.
Case started the campaign with higher name recognition than Hanabusa and Djou, as well as the experience of winning two previous special elections to Congress to replace the late U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink in 2002 and 2003.
"We don't have the backing of the machine or the special interests or a national party and their presidential candidates," Case said.
Case said he would have enough money to compete. "We are going to have the resources we need to finish this campaign," he said.