Saturday, September 12, 1998

Campaign '98

Ward picks up contribution
promises in D.C.

The House majority leader
and speaker pledge to help
his congressional campaign

By Pete Pichaske
Phillips News Service


WASHINGTON -- State Rep. Gene Ward left Washington elated yesterday after a whirlwind visit that snared about $100,000 in promised contributions for his congressional campaign.

But Republican Ward will need all that and a lot more to counter the fund-raising steamroller that has been assembled by incumbent U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie.

According to reports filed this week with the Federal Election Commission, Abercrombie has raised $350,000 so far this year and $756,000 since the last election.

That's twice as much as the Honolulu Democrat had raised at the same time during his 1996 campaign. After barely surviving that contest, Abercrombie vowed to be a more aggressive fund-raiser. He appears to be keeping that vow.

"We're pleased. We're right on target," said Tina Yamamoto, Abercrombie's campaign spokeswoman. "We're still expecting this to be a very difficult campaign."

Ward, who emerged as the top GOP challenger after state Rep. Quentin Kawananakoa dropped out of the race in late August for health reasons, had raised $80,000 so far this year and a total of $112,000.

But that does not include the $100,000 in pledges Ward picked up this week during his four-day visit to the capital. The visit included meetings with traditional Republican money sources, including both political action committees and individuals.

According to Ward, those commitments include $10,000 from the American Building Contractors; $10,000 from House Majority Leader Richard Armey, R-Texas; and $5,000 from House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga.

"We're getting some momentum going," said Ward, who has consistently trailed both Abercrombie and Kawananakoa badly in the money chase.

"Not everything revolves around dollars, but that's something that people look at."

Ward campaign manager Steve McManus conceded that Abercrombie's take will be hard to match. But he said contributions will pick up as soon as Ward emerges from the Sept. 19 primary election as Abercrombie's sole challenger.

"Once this becomes head to head, a lot of purse strings will loosen up," he said.

Abercrombie, meanwhile, has no plans to slow down. Yamamoto noted that national GOP strategists had targeted Abercrombie as one of the most vulnerable Democrats in Congress.

"Whether it's against Gene Ward or Quentin, we figured this would be an expensive campaign," she said.

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