By TOM CALLIS
Tribune-Herald staff writer
State Sen. Josh Green won re-election last November with enough cash left over to fund his campaign nearly four more times.
But the Democrat representing Kona and Ka‘u is already looking to expand his overflowing war chest of $312,705more than three times the amount held by the other 10 Big Island state representatives combined.
Green will host his first post-election fundraiser Thursday at the Pacific Club in Honolulu.
The event, with a suggested contribution of $500, starts at 5:30 p.m., and Green said he won’t miss out on his duties in the state Capitol that day.
Green referred to the event as a nearly annual gathering of friends, family and supporters around his birthday and noted state law doesn’t prevent fundraising while the Legislature is in session.
“I usually have a fundraiser every year around my birthday, and I’m honored to receive support from people who believe in me,” he said in a phone interview.
Green, who insisted on leaving his comments brief, declined to comment on the mountain of campaign cash he has already accumulated from donors over nine years in the Legislature.
He also declined to talk about any future aspirations he may have for other public offices.
Holders of county or state offices can use their donations to run for another office (federal offices excluded), said Tony Baldomero, associate director of the state Campaign Spending Commission.
“It has to be a state or county office,” he said.
Green, a Kona Community Hospital emergency room physician, would be up for re-election again in 2016.
Todd Belt, a political science professor at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, said building such a huge war chest could serve a few purposes: warding off potential challengers or preparing for a run at another office.
“He is one of those districts that on the Big Island might go Republican,” he said, adding that another GOP challenge would likely not be strong.
Green beat Republican candidate Jeff LaFrance with 78 percent of the vote in the Nov. 6 general election. He had spent $83,725 during the campaign.
Belt said that generally it’s unusual for a legislator to hold a fundraiser so soon after an election if they do not have a campaign deficit.
State Sen. Gil Kahele, D-Hilo, is the only other Big Island legislator to hold a post-election fundraiser.
His campaign reported a deficit of $9,887 as of Dec. 31. Three other Big Island representatives — Nicole Lowen, Mark Nakashima and Russell Ruderman — also reported campaign deficits, mainly due to loans from the candidates themselves that went unpaid.
After Green, Rep. Clift Tsuji, D-Hilo, has the biggest campaign surplus with $73,677.
Kahele’s event was held Jan. 23 at the Mandalay Restaurant in Honolulu. It had a suggested donation of $50.
Belt said that Green’s position as chair of the Senate Health Committee makes him a natural magnet for donations from other physicians and health care companies.
“The health industry, the health insurers, the medical industry itself is in a situation of uncertainty,” he said.
“And when you have uncertainty in a policy area that always stimulates a lot of campaign contributions.”
Green, as a physician, also benefits from being connected to plenty of potential wealthy donors, Belt said.
“Physicians have a natural constituency of other physicians that have money to contribute,” he said.
Health care professionals have provided some of the most numerous donations to his campaign. Health care companies have also made significant contributions.
But the donations themselves don’t necessarily indicate favorable treatment, Belt noted.
“If someone has a small war chest with a very large contributor, that’s much more magnified as a potential conflict of interest than (lots of) smaller ones,” he said.
Green found himself in hot water last year for getting involved in a billing dispute between the City and County of Honolulu and Automated HealthCare Solutions, one of his donors.
While he didn’t specifically take the side of the company, he labeled the Honolulu’s settlement as unreasonable in a letter and urged a timely resolution, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported in November.
Green told the Tribune-Herald that month that he didn’t write the letter to benefit the company but wanted to see the issue resolved before it impacted patients.
He later donated a $2,000 campaign contribution from the company, made after the letter was written, to the Aloha Medical Mission and Kona Hospital Foundation.
Email Tom Callis at email@example.com.