By NANCY COOK LAUER
Santa Claus meets the bully pulpit meets Just Call Me Harry. There are as many campaign styles as there are major candidates for Hawaii County mayor.
With a little more than a month before what promises to be a three-way primary battle, incumbent Mayor Billy Kenoi has the decided monetary advantage, an advantage that shows in the scores of campaign signs plastering the island.
Challenger Dominic Yagong, the chairman of the County Council, on the other hand, has a sparse showing of campaign signs and apparently little money to buy more. And former Mayor Harry Kim, a latecomer to the race, sticks to his pledge of no campaign contributions over $10. He plans to buy bumper stickers, he said, but not the more costly campaign signs.
Kenoi had accumulated $333,373 in contributions as of Dec. 31, the most recent filing period, according to reports he filed with the state Campaign Spending Commission. In comparison, Yagong’s contributions stood at $2,057. Kim declared his intentions late and hasn’t yet filed a campaign finance disclosure. The next filing deadline is July 12.
Kenoi and Yagong, however, have advantages in their political posts that are in addition to their campaign prowess. While they’re legally barred from campaigning on county time or using county facilities, there’s a natural advantage to being in their political offices.
Mayor Kenoi, for example, has opened, blessed and dedicated more than three times the county parks and other facilities in the first six months of this year than in all of last year, according to a West Hawaii Today analysis of Kenoi’s news releases and advisories. The events are positive, joyous occasions with lots of lei, happy families and photo ops.
Kenoi said Tuesday he’s just doing his job.
“I’m just very proud of the hard work that department heads and the administration has done to get these parks and roads and facilities open for the people of this county,” Kenoi said. “This has nothing to do with the campaign. It’s great working with the community, and the fact is, we’re doing our job and our job is to get things done.”
Yagong, meanwhile, has made good use of the bully pulpit offered by his chairmanship of the County Council, sponsoring bills, resolutions and public hearings on such controversial topics as geothermal energy and aerial shooting of game.
Yagong garnered applause from a packed hall last month when he sponsored a charter amendment creating a game commission. Caught up in the excitement, he apparently let a little campaigning slip out.
“It’s set up like any other commission, which the mayor selects — and hopefully that’s going to be me — but the mayor selects and the council confirms,” Yagong said from his seat as chairman. “But I cannot guarantee you right now that that’s going to happen unless I am the mayor.”
Yagong told West Hawaii Today this week that he was just explaining the process after fellow council members questioned how the game commissioners would be chosen.
While the issues have filled council chambers with constituents, Yagong said that’s not been his intention. In fact, he said, the most controversial issues have come from the constituents, not his office.
“All of this stuff came from the community and the concerns they have expressed,” Yagong said.
Kim, who served two terms as mayor, the last term in a burgeoning economy, is relying on name recognition, good will and using the same laid-back style he adopted early on to carry him through to another victory.
“This is the same way I ran since the first time,” Kim said. “I don’t know much about campaigning.”
Other candidates in the race are Share Christie, Daniel Cunningham and Rand “Baker Tom” Walls.
Email Nancy Cook Lauer at email@example.com.