Roth clinches Hawaii Island mayoral seat

  • Mitch Roth talks with his wife, Noriko Roth, center and Audrey Takamine while waiting for election results in Hilo on Tuesday. (Kelsey Walling/Hawaii Tribune-Herald)

  • Ikaika Marzo plays music for his supporters election night at the Kona Country Club. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • Ikaika Marzo addresses supporters Tuesday evening at the Kona Country Club. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • Mitch Roth addresses backers in Hilo Tuesday. (Nancy Cook Lauer/West Hawaii Today)

  • Mitch Roth gives a thumbs-up to supporter Gay Mathews while waiting for election results for Hawaii's mayoral race in Hilo on Tuesday. (Kelsey Walling/Hawaii Tribune-Herald)

Hawaii County Prosecutor Mitch Roth beat political newcomer Ikaika Marzo late Tuesday in the race to be the next mayor of Hawaii County.

Roth had 48,895 votes, or 57%, compared to Marzo’s 34,142 votes, or 40%, after election results were released at about 11:25 p.m.

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Earlier Tuesday night, Roth, backed by a local band and about 50 campaign loyalists, held court Tuesday evening on a social media feed from a pavilion outside his rural Hilo residence, cracking jokes, talking story and doing everything short of a soft-shoe to keep the momentum going as election results lagged because of late poll closings.

Meanwhile, across the island at the Kona Country Club, Ikaika Marzo, 36, played a similar tune, settling in for a long wait for the results after polling places in Honolulu continued far past the 7 p.m. closing, holding up reports to the rest of the state. Marzo made the most of the wait, playing music for his base.

Roth, 56, praised Marzo for keeping the tenor of the race positive. In fact, Roth said, he invited Marzo to dinner at his place, where they “broke bread” and talked about the many issues facing the county.

Roth noted some mainland races were “nasty.” But the mayoral race wasn’t, he said.

“We could agree to disagree on certain things but we didn’t get nasty,” Roth told his audience. “Tonight’s just the beginning. We have a lot of things we need to do. We’ve got to get together and work together.”

Marzo was similarly upbeat.

“I feel good. We worked so hard the last eight months. We ran a clean and honest campaign for the people and for the aina, for Hawaii,” he said, “We did everything we could. Now it’s up to the voters. This is historic. It is record breaking. We have had the most voter turnout ever. That says something about our voters. They want something different. It’s our future on the brink of change of the status quo.”

Roth campaigned on a “reboot, recover, renew” platform, saying he will fix county government systems that are not functioning effectively, get shovel-ready jobs going and help residents return to work safely and improve critical infrastructure to make the island vibrant.

Marzo produced a detailed platform of 17 specific areas he thinks needs to be addressed. His sustainability agenda, for example, includes safe and sustainable tourism, health care that stresses senior living facilities, homegrown agriculture and aquaculture to feed the population, “responsible” technology and industry including remote work and supporting start-up industries, including keeping the “best and brightest workers on-island while encouraging our mainland experts to return.”

Whether fresh blood or an experienced administrator was the best choice seemed top of some voters’ minds Tuesday.

“I voted for Mitch Roth because I know from experience that having good intentions without also having solid experience as a leader can set one up to fail,” said Vanessa Carlson in response to a social media inquiry.

“I have in the past voted for the most experienced candidate but this year I voted for change,” said Carolemarlise Vasconcellos. “So Marzo it is.”

“I voted for Roth in the primary, but Marzo in the final election,” said Kouto Kahuku. “Ikaika Marzo came to (Ocean View), and seems to care about us out here. We need a mayor for the whole island. OV is frequently forgotten by the county.”

“Mitch Roth. I believe he has the administrative experience to lead this county through this pandemic,” said Aaron Stene. “In addition, he supports astronomy on Maunakea, which Ikaika Marzo does not support.”

Roth promised to appoint a cabinet representative of the entire island, create a COVID-19 economic recovery plan, reduce red tape and work to streamline the permit process, get shovel-ready projects going and strengthen the county’s capacity to secure additional funding outside taxes.

Other pledges Roth said he will fulfill in his first 100 days in office after his Dec. 7 inauguration include addressing critical infrastructure such as wastewater, landfill, recycling, roads, public transportation and broadband capacity. He also wants to host a sustainability summit.

Mayor Harry Kim, who came in third in the primary, said Tuesday, before the votes were reported, that he would reach out to the winner and help ease the transition to a new administration.

“As soon as the election is over and we know who won, I will make contact,” Kim said. “We’ve been working on a transition plan, and I’ve told all the department heads there’s an open invitation for the new cabinet to come in and meet with them.”

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Roth and Marzo came out on top of a crowded field of 15 candidates for mayor in the Aug. 8 primary, unseating Kim, who was seeking a fourth term. Roth had 20,235 votes to Marzo’s 13,775, leaving 30,237 votes for other candidates that were up for grabs Tuesday. Another 774 voters left the ballot blank and 57 others voted for more than one candidate, so their votes were discarded.

Roth also beat Marzo in the money race, accumulating $434,746 in contributions to Marzo’s $178,206 as of Friday, according to reports filed with the state Campaign Spending Commission.

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