A countywide elected official with experience running a large government agency, or a fresh face with no government experience at all? That’s the choice facing Hawaii County voters in the Nov. 3 general election when they decide who will be the county mayor.
Mitch Roth, 55, has been the county prosecuting attorney, the only countywide elected position other than the mayor’s office, for eight years. Ikaika Marzo, 36, a business owner turned community organizer who was active during the 2018 lava flow, has never held political office or worked in government.
With all ballots counted in the second printout late Saturday, Roth had 19,449 votes or 31.8%, compared to Marzo, with 12,893 votes or 21.1% in the 15-candidate race for mayor. A candidate needed more than 50% of the vote to be elected in the primary, without having to go to a runoff.
The pair ousted incumbent Mayor Harry Kim, who came in third.
“I just want to thank all the people who worked so hard, all the volunteers,” Roth said. “This is a ‘we’ thing, not a ‘me’ thing.”
“We have been working tirelessly for the past 5 months and I can say this, we have done everything we could have done to be successful in this election. Win or lose I still have your back Hawaii,” Marzo posted to his Facebook page before the results started coming out. “I will do everything I can for the safety and the well being of all race, all kupuna, all Keiki and all people of Hawaii. I will continue on my journey.”
Hawaii’s first all-mail election saw a record voter turnout. Some 61,900 people cast ballots. That compares with a total of 43,817 total votes cast in the 2018 primary and 40,928 cast in the 2016 primary.
Kim came in third place with 9,590 votes or 15.7%. Kim, 80, began working for the county as the law enforcement assistance agency director in 1972, then spent 24 years as Civil Defense administrator before serving two terms as mayor from 2000 to 2008. He was elected mayor again in 2016.
“I’ve always said from the beginning, judge me by my work,” Kim said. “And if folks aren’t satisfied with my work, then I accept what the people voted. That’s what it’s all about.”
Both Roth and Marzo see the county’s economic future as one of their first jobs, should they be elected. Neither want to raise taxes, but their approaches to the county budget are slightly different.
“In order to better understand where we can be more efficient, I intend on meeting with all levels of county employees to determine where cuts can be made. This may include reducing overtime, freezing certain positions, improving the way the County procurement contracts are written to ensure that the County is getting the best value for its money, or using energy saving performance contracts and/or public-private partnerships to assist in delivery of services,” Roth said in response to a newspaper questionnaire.
“We will review all county services, and make sure that essential jobs like fire, police, water and health care support for COVID-19 and services for domestic violence and mental health are not interrupted. Where we do make cuts, we must collaborate with community groups and businesses to empower them to fill any gaps that emerge,” Marzo said.
In election results, Kim was followed by Neil Azevedo, with 6,919 votes or 11.3%, Stacy Higa, with 5,635 votes or 9.2%, Tante Urban, with 1,887 votes or 3.1%, Bob Fitzgerald, with 1,501 votes or 2.54%, Michael Ruggles, with 1,155 votes or 1.9%, Kelly Greenwell, with 670 votes or 0.9%, Wendell Kaehuaea, with 567 votes or 0.9%, Yumi Kawano, with 373 votes or 0.6%, Ted Shaneyfelt, with 164 votes or 0.3%, Paul Bryant, with 155 votes or 0.3%, Mikey Glendon, with 126 votes or 0.2% and Lahi Verschuur, with 53 votes or 0.1%, rounded out the lengthy candidate list.