An interesting footnote to the Great Neldon Mamuad Abortive Mayoral Candidacy Trial Thing that happened this week in Judge Peter Cahill’s Second Circuit Courtroom concerns political candidate filing fees in the State of Hawaii. Yes, filing fees.
During the two-day hearing, Cahill said that he had to familiarize himself with both election law and the process of holding elections. And during that research, Cahill told the court on the last day of the hearing, he discovered that the fees the state Office of Elections charges people who run for office were “very different” from office to office–but not in the way he expected. It was clear that the finding amused Cahill, but the matter didn’t even rise to the level of side issue to the Mamuad matter, so Cahill moved on after about a minute.
But after the trial, I went to the Office of Elections website to see the various fees for myself. They’re all there, buried in the 2014 Candidate’s Manual (which you can read here):
U.S. Senator: $75
U.S. Representative: $75
Lt. Governor: $750
State Senator: $250
State Representative: $250
OHA Board: $250
Maui County Mayor: $500
Maui County Council: $250
So, yeah. If you want to run for the U.S. Senate–one of the most elite and powerful legislative bodies in the world, that will only cost you $75. But you think you have a shot at being Maui County Mayor? That’ll be $500. As Cahill noted, this says something about our state’s elective priorities.
Of course, there are discounts available for state and local offices (Governor and below on the above list). Should candidates agree to sign on to the state’s “voluntary campaign expenditure limits,” then the Office of Elections will slash their filing feels to just 10 percent of the posted rates. (Candidates who declare themselves “indigent” can have their filing fees waived.)
That discount seems great, but saving money up front by restricting your campaign spending could easily come back to haunt you later if your opponent feels otherwise. That seems to have been what through Linda Lingle’s mind back in the 1998 governor’s race, when she decided to withdraw from the expenditure limits she had signed onto, which according to this Honolulu Star-Bulletin article also required her to return more than $130,000 in public funds she’d raised by that point.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons