Penn Leads Aiona, Cordery, and Tsuneyoshi in GOP Fundraiser for Governor

Retired MMA fighter BJ Penn led top Republican gubernatorial candidates in fundraising in the first half of this year after raising $225,000, according to recently filed campaign expense reports.

He is closely followed by Oahu entrepreneur and activist Gary Cordery, who raised $205,536 between Jan. 1 and June 30. Cordery has outspent other candidates, including Penn, losing $185,276 on the race so far.

Honolulu City Council member Heidi Tsuneyoshi raised approximately $36,000 and spent $29,000. Former Lt. Governor Duke Aiona entered the race last and trails after raising $23,620.

GOP primary candidates have raised far less than their Democratic counterparts, who are spending millions of dollars in personal funds and donor money to sway voters ahead of the Aug. 13 primary election. Mail-in ballots are mailed July 26.

In the GOP race, Penn still has the strongest financial position heading into the last month before ballots hit the mailboxes. His campaign reported having $140,000 on hand in July.

Penn’s campaign is bolstered by $30,000 in donations of $100 or less. Records show he also loaned her campaign $47,000. About $60,000 came from a local family and associates in Las Vegas with ties to the MMA world.

BJ Penn led fundraising for the GOP contest for governor in the first six months of 2022.

Those who have donated the maximum $6,000 allowed in a gubernatorial race include Aiea resident Christina Penn, Penn’s mother Lorraine Shin, Jodi Penn and Reagan Penn.

UFC President Dana White and Las Vegas billionaires Lorenzo and Teressa Fertitta also maxed out their donations to Penn’s campaign. In 2019, White told reporters that Penn was going never fight in the UFC again after a video emerged of an altercation between Penn and another man in Hawaii.

The Fertittas own the Station casinos chain in Las Vegas and are longtime GOP donors. Lorenzo Fertitta, along with his brother Frank, bought the UFC in the early 2000s and hired their friend White to run the company. The Fertitta brothers sold the UFC in 2017, according to Forbes.

But most of his donors have addresses in Hawaii and include Hilo business owners like Mariner Revell ($1,000), owner of Kimura General Store.

Penn’s biggest expense was $27,000 for data services at Wilferson Public Affairs in Olympia, Washington.

Corderie reported approximately $22,000 in non-monetary contribution from its contracting company, Commercial Facility’s Specialists Inc. for advertising, media, yard signs and banners. The company operates as Kingdom Builders.

Cordery also got $18,000 in donations under $100. Many of its donors are local business owners and entrepreneurs.

Those who have maxed out donations to his campaign include Donna Antone, a missionary from Kailua; Deborah Barbour, owner of Hawaii Integrated Services & Supplies; chiropractor Erik Shimane; Jasmine Yim, owner of doterra Health Multi-Marketing; and Johnette Schenk, of Hawaii Home Management.

Cordery also received $4,000 each from Hardware Hawaii owner David Lundquist, Leeward Community College professor Jessica Choi and local billionaire Annie Chan.

Chan and her husband Fred have donated thousands of dollars to the Republican Party of Hawaii over the years. The couple made their fortune developing computer processing chips in California in the 1990s.

Gary Cordery, director of the Aloha Freedom Coalition speaks during a press conference held at Honolulu Hale.
Gary Cordery has spent the most of any candidate in the GOP race to be the party’s gubernatorial nominee. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

Cordery spent $32,000 on advertising. He also spent about $12,500 on consulting contracts with Virginia-based PR firm Cutting Edge.

Tsuneyoshi’s main donor was Service Corporation International. The Houston-based funeral and cremation service provider donated $5,000 to his campaign.

His other major donor is Laie Trucking Company, which donated $3,000 to his campaign. Others who gave between $1,000 and $1,650 included Sarah Chinen, a Hawaiian air conditioning worker; Dexter Eji, engineer at WSP; Andrew Tajiri, Vice President of Tajiri Lumber; and Jesse Rivera, musician and retired firefighter.

Tsuneyoshi spent around $10,000 on printing services with local media group Hagadone.

Aiona, who leads the GOP race in the polls, didn’t begin fundraising until late June and raised all of his $23,000 over a nine-day span between June 21 and June 30.

No one has maximized their contributions to their campaign. Its top contributor was insurance consultant Mark Yen ($5,000), followed by Aiea retiree James Hamada ($4,000).

Aiona also received $4,000 from Mile Kawakami, president of Hawaii Carpet One. A third of his donors are retirees, including former Republican Governor Linda Lingle, who donated $2,000 to Aiona’s campaign.

So far, his only expense, 85 cents, has been for bank charges.

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