Hawaii County Council Candidates Tapping Into Public Financing

Seven candidates for Hawaii County Council on the Big Island are taking advantage of public financing through a three-election-year pilot program in its second year.

The candidates — including two incumbents — have together received more than $145,000 for their primary campaigns. A total of a dozen candidates signed up to participate in the so-called Comprehensive Public Funding program.

The program was seen as way to help eliminate the influence of outside money in elections. The money comes through the Hawaii Election Campaign Fund, which is filled by taxpayers who check off on their state income tax filings to have $3 go to the fund.

"The program is basically designed, in my opinion, to promote clean elections so that people running in the same district have an equal playing field as far as access to funds," said Maile David, a candidate running for District 6, who has received more than $41,000 in public funds for the upcoming Aug. 11 primary. "I don't think I could have raised that amount of money on my own. ... It's hard enough running a campaign, and when you have to ask your supporters for money when times are really tough, I'm just happy that I do have this funding."

Once a candidate opts in to the program, he or she needs to raise 200 individual $5 contributions from registered voters in their district. When that's achieved and verified by the state Campaign Spending Commission, the candidate receives a so-called base amount.

The remaining five candidates who applied have until June 5 to raise their 200 contributions.

The base amount of funding varies for each of the council's nine districts. It's calculated by averaging how much the winner in each district spent in the previous two county council elections, less 10 percent. For example, this election, the base amount for District 1 is $1,226; for District 6 it's $41,573. A $300,000 cap is in place for each election.

A participating candidate cannot accept additional contributions after receiving the base public funding. They are allowed to raise up to $3,000 in "seed money" before opting into the program.

Here are the seven candidates who have received public funds so far:

Candidate District Primary Base
J Yoshimoto 2 $14,559
Greggor Ilagan 4 $16,320
James Weatherford 4 $16,320
Maile David 6 $41,573
Brenda Ford 6 $41,573
Karen Eoff 8 $3,684.56
Margaret Wille 9 $11,427.46
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