Open prosecutor’s office draws candidate interest

  • Christopher Bridges

  • Kelden Waltjen

  • Jared Kamakakulani Auna

Candidates are coming forward to fill the upcoming void in the Office of the County Prosecutor that will be left as Prosecutor Mitch Roth is running for mayor.

The prosecuting attorney, the only other countywide office besides the mayor, is a nonpartisan four-year post. Roth will have served two terms when his position ends in December.

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Two current and two former Hawaii County deputy county prosecutors had pulled papers by Friday evening to vie for the upcoming vacancy, according to the weekly report posted by the state Office of Elections. Candidate filing continues through June 2.

Roth said Monday he’s glad there’s an interest in the office.

“I’m really pleased to hear that there are some really good candidates that are running for the office,” Roth said. “All have at least a knowledge of the office, which I think is important.”

Former Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jared Kamakakulani Auna, 38, also served as a deputy prosecutor on Maui and Kauai, but he says he’s a “Big Island boy,” with family all over the island. Currently, he’s working as a trial attorney in Hilo.

Auna graduated from Hilo High School and obtained his law degree at Barry University in Florida.

“I’m part of this community. I grew up here and I think I could be a leader here,” Auna said. “I think we could build on what’s been done — positive things have been done. … Address not just crimes themselves but also the reasons people commit crimes.”

Former Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Christopher Bridges, 48, served as a deputy public defender in San Diego, first deputy prosecuting attorney on Kauai and deputy prosecutor in Hawaii County before moving into private practice in 2011. He lives in Mountain View.

Bridges, who has 20 years criminal lawyer experience, graduated from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and obtained his law degree, cum laude, at Pepperdine University in Malibu.

“I am not a politician, but I firmly believe that our current approach to crime and the scourge of methamphetamine is not working as well as it could,” Bridges said. “I have the vision, the leadership abilities and the experience to effectively serve as the Big Island’s next prosecuting attorney.”

Deputy Prosecutor Kelden Waltjen, 33, was born and raised in Hilo, attended St. Joseph’s High School, graduated from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and obtained his law degree from the William S. Richardson School of Law.

Prior to working at the Prosecutor’s Office, he clerked for Associate Justice Richard W. Pollack at the Circuit Court of the First Circuit and Hawaii Supreme Court.

He currently serves as the East Hawaii Director of the Hawaii State Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division and was recently honored as the 2018-2019 Hawaii County Employee of the Year.

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“As a deputy prosecutor, I have fought for justice, held offenders accountable for their actions and provided victims with a voice. I have facilitated treatment for offenders suffering from substance abuse addiction and mental illness through recommendations for court mandated supervision and probation,” Waltjen said. “I am familiar with the office’s organizational structure, policies, procedures, special programs, and staff. I possess the integrity, experience and commitment necessary to serve as your next prosecutor.”

Deputy Prosecutor Stephen Frye, who works out of the Kealakehe office, did not respond to email and telephone requests Monday or Tuesday.

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