Sam Aiona is the former executive director of the state Office of Community Services, former board member of the Hawaii Public Housing Authority, and current board vice chairman for HOPE Services Homeless Program.
Sam Aiona

Pacific Resource Partnership and its affiliate, the Hawaii Carpenters Union, are waging a media and grassroots ground war against candidates opposing the city’s planned $5.2 billion elevated steel on steel rail project.

The organization will likely spend $3 million by Election Day on negative advertising, largely targeting Mayoral Candidate Ben Cayetano.

But the organizations that represent about 200 contractors (including many that could benefit financially from the rail project) are not just aiming their ire at Ben Cayetano.

Council member Tom Berg and Council member hopeful Sam Aiona also are on the hit list.

The Carpenters Union and Pacific Resource Partnership want to ensure an all pro-rail city council is elected. There are 9 members on the council, and currently two, City Budget Chair Ann Kobayashi and City Council Member Tom Berg, are critical of the project. Council member Tulsi Gabbard resigned from the council to run for Congress, leaving an open seat.

PRP Hawaii and Carpenters are backing Rep. Kymberly Pine, a Republican, who is running against Berg, and Sen. Carol Fukunaga, a Democrat, who is running against anti-rail candidate and former State Rep. Sam Aiona for Gabbard’s seat. Pine and Fukunaga are benefitting from Pacific resource Partnership sponsored mailers and campaign volunteers.

Polls show Aiona is slightly ahead of Fukunaga in the polls. Aiona told Hawaii Reporter he received seven mailers sponsored by PRP all advocating for Fukunaga in the Council Dist 6 race. Each mailer costs about $10,000.

Because rail is not popular in District 6, the mailers have not mentioned their support of rail, only what an effective Senator Fukunaga was.

Aiona said: “The real story is that not a single piece of mail from PRP or Carol Fukunaga (she sent three) talks about rail.  Every piece talks about how she got high tech jobs to Hawaii. It’s amazing that they spent so much money but never advocate for the rail system or Carol’s support of it.”

Kobayashi, meanwhile, is facing an opponent who worked for the company managing the rail project.

Berg and Cayetano have been the target of negative push polls, sponsored by PRP Hawaii, which seek to discredit them personally and professionally.

Last week, Cayetano filed a lawsuit against PRP Hawaii and the Carpenters Union, alleging their advertisements and push polls are slanderous and libelous.

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