Legislative hopefuls
on their own

House and Senate leaders
say they do not plan to aid
candidates unless they are asked

By Pat Omandam

Incumbents in the state Legislature may be on their own when it comes to campaign support from their legislative leaders.

Senate President Robert Bunda (D, Wahiawa), House Speaker Calvin Say (D, Palolo) and House Minority Leader Galen Fox (R, Waikiki) said they do not plan to help campaign for colleagues seeking re-election unless they are asked to do so.

And so far, their phones are not ringing off the hook.

"I think the tendency for those of us is to stay somewhat neutral," Bunda said.

Said Say: "Most of the fund-raisers that I do attend, I attend if I'm invited. That's about it."

All 76 legislative seats are up for re-election this year because of changes to district boundaries through reapportionment. Republicans have targeted the 51-member state House, where they hope to add six more seats to the 20 they already have to win a majority — and control — of the chamber.

With seven weeks left before the Sept. 21 primary elections, incumbents and challengers are focused on their individual campaigns. Bunda said yesterday that because of the single-party primary elections, there is a question of fairness that arises if he shows up at fund-raisers for some Democratic candidates and not others.

"I think, for me personally, it's very sensitive to appear at one person's function and don't appear to another," said Bunda, who added everyone has their favorites.

Fox said he has received requests from some incumbents to attend fund-raising events, but that is all. The House GOP members more or less conduct their own campaigns and already have a formula for winning, he said.

"It's so hard to get elected as a Republican that once you're in, it's usually because you've kind of passed the big test, and at that point you know how to win," Fox said.

"As you know, the trend line has been in our direction. We all come back because we take these battles seriously," he said.

Also helping the House GOP is a political action committee, or PAC, created in September 1995 that donates money to Republican incumbents and challengers.

In 2000, for example, the House GOP PAC gave $1,000 to state Rep. Mark Moses (Kapolei) after the primary election. Moses faced a tough re-election bid in the general election at the time against perennial challenger Maeda Timson, a community leader.

Twenty-one other GOP incumbents in 2000 received $500 or less from the committee that year. The support paid off as the House GOP boosted its House membership to 19 from 12.

Former Democrat Lei Ahu Isa became a Republican this summer, bringing their number in the House to 20.

The House GOP PAC had a listed balance of $13,608 as of Dec. 31, 2001.

Say said the House Democrats followed suit this January with their own PAC to help stop a Republican takeover.

He said the committee is run by private individuals. Legislators are not involved, he said.

"After two years ago, when the Democrats lost seven Democrats, I took it upon myself to be responsible for the losses of the seven members," Say said.

"And knowing that the GOP had a House GOP PAC for the past seven or nine years, we just wanted to duplicate what they were doing, since we haven't done anything," he said.

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