Gov’s race heats up
in rush to raise cash

Cayetano plans a $1 million dinner;
Lingle aims to double
her war chest

By Mike Yuen

With nearly $1.8 million in his campaign coffers, Democratic Gov. Ben Cayetano wants more.

To bolster his re-election bid next year, Cayetano is hosting a $1,000-per-person fund-raising dinner at the Sheraton-Waikiki Hotel tomorrow night. Cayetano's campaigners expect a turnout of 1,000 people. If that happens, Cayetano will have an additional $1 million for the political battles ahead.

Meanwhile, Maui Mayor Linda Lingle, who wants to be the Republican gubernatorial nominee, is also busy raising money.

Lingle's appeals have included letters on her behalf by GOP leaders such as former state Republican Party Chairwoman Jane Tatibouet.

"For Linda to win next November, the public and the media must consider her a strong candidate financially," Tatibouet wrote.

Tatibouet urged potential donors to write a check or use their credit cards to donate "whatever you can" to Lingle's campaign before Saturday. That's to allow the contributions to appear on public campaign finance reports due Jan. 30.

Lingle said she wants her report to show that her campaign war chest has doubled to at least $220,000 since her July 30 report.

Although she still would have amassed significantly less than Cayetano by the end of January, Lingle wants to leave the impression that her fund-raising is on the upswing and that there's momentum to her campaign, said campaign-seasoned Republicans and Democrats.

But some also believe that, with the general election 11 months away, Cayetano's hefty campaign gives him a decided early edge. With three candidates already in the race unofficially -- Cayetano, Lingle and former Honolulu Mayor Frank Fasi (R) -- and a fourth -- Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris (D) -- a possible entrant, there's already a tough fight for campaign money, particularly at a time when the state's economy is stagnant.

Harris' entry into the campaign for governor would squeeze fund-raising even beyond the gubernatorial race, political veterans added, because there would be a scramble for the mayor's seat and seats of council members who would run for mayor.

"Unfortunately, it takes money to win," said GOP stalwart Franklin Kometani, the campaign manager for U.S. Rep. Patricia Saiki's unsuccessful gubernatorial bid against Cayetano in 1994.

Kometani said, "If everybody has to spend an equal amount to be competitive and Ben continues to raise money, it is going to be hard to match Ben if there are four people in the race."

If Cayetano's early strategy is to try to lock up the bulk of campaign contributions and appear a likely winner so that potential donors are reluctant to contribute to his challengers, "That's a great idea," Kometani said. "It's obvious he has the advantage as the incumbent."

Cayetano declined to discuss campaign fund-raising for this story.

Kometani, who has no role in Lingle's campaign, said it may take as much as $4 million to run an effective gubernatorial campaign in Hawaii. Others go as high as $5 million.

Lingle believes she can run an effective campaign with $2 million. "The race will not be won on how much is raised," she asserted. "It will be won by who offers the best solutions."

Fasi's announcement that he intends to contest Lingle for the GOP nomination could help Lingle, said state GOP Chairwoman Donna Alcantara and other Republicans. A contested primary that draws attention to Lingle could spur contributions and she would benefit from the "free media" -- news coverage rather than paid newspaper ads or TV spots -- to bolster her statewide name recognition, Alcantara added.

Fasi, who led Honolulu for 22 years but failed in his four previous gubernatorial bids, acknowledged that he needs to do some significant fund-raising. He's carrying a campaign debt of nearly $117,400 after his mayoral loss last year, which followed his unsuccessful race for governor in 1994.

Fasi said he has yet to schedule a fund-raiser.

"With Frank more than $100,000 in debt, I don't know how he's going to raise money," Kometani said. "I don't know how he's going to raise money to be a threat to Linda. But I would never underestimate him. He's a crafty and seasoned politician.

"If it's a bloody (GOP primary) fight, Linda may be may hurt even if she wins."

Then the general election would be ahead.

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