The Hawaii County prosecutor instrumental in obtaining convictions in the notorious “Peter Boy” Kema case 20 years after the 6-year-old’s death at the hands of his parents won the Big Island’s top elected post in Tuesday’s general election.
Mitch Roth, 56, handily defeated political novice Ikaika Marzo in the mayor’s race in what the candidates described an amicable race between “friends.” Roth had 59% vs. Marzo’s 41% by early Wednesday morning.
Roth, a former Honolulu prosecutor, will succeed Harry Kim, 81, who served a total of 12 years in the post and failed to advance from the Aug. 8 primary.
During the campaign, Roth touted his hands-on experience as a county manager and his understanding of the law.
“One of my top priorities will be to change the philosophy and culture of government to one that helps people and businesses thrive rather than just exist,” he told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser during the campaign.
Marzo’s popularity stemmed from his grassroots effort to mobilize resources for the Puna community devastated by the 2018 Kilauea eruption that destroyed more than 700 homes and displaced more than 2,500 residents.
The first-time candidate founded Pu‘u Honua O Puna Eruption Relief Center, which became known as The Hub, to provide food and essential supplies, rallying hundreds of volunteers and collecting thousands of dollars in donations and goods.
He had said his goal in running for mayor was “empowering ordinary citizens” with jobs and “inspiring our youth to success.”
“My utmost priority is uniting the people with their government, giving the people a voice, and resetting Hawaii’s sails to steer us in the right direction — a direction founded on trust and aloha,” Marzo said.
Meanwhile, incumbents fared well in nonpartisan Council elections in Hawaii, Maui and Kauai counties.
On Maui, where candidates run in nine residency seats subject to a countywide vote, incumbents Shane Sinenci (East Maui), Tamara Paltin (West Maui), Tasha Kama (Kahului), Kelly King (South Maui), Mike Molina (Makawao-Haiku-Paia) and Keani Rawlins-Fernandez (Molokai) all won re-election.
With Lanai Councilman Riki Hokama stepping down due to term limits, Gabe Johnson was the winner over Alberta De Jetley for the only open Council seat. Running unopposed were Alice Lee (Wailuku-Waihee-Waikapu) and Yuki Lei Sugimura (Upcountry).
Of the nine Hawaii County Council seats, only two were up for grabs in the general election. In the District 1 race, representing Pepeekeo, Laupahoehoe, Honokaa and portions of Kamuela, Heather Kimball had an insurmountable lead over former Council Chairman Dominic Yagong.
In District 5 (Glenwood, Mountain View, Hawaiian Acres, Ainaloa, and mauka of Pahoa town), incumbent Matt Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder won a tighter race with Ikaika Rodenhurst.
The winners will join Aaron Chung (District 2), Sue Lee Loy (District 3), Ashley Kierkiewicz (District 4), Maile David (District 6), Rebecca Villegas (District 7), Karen Eoff (District 8) and Tim Richards III (District 9).
On Kauai, the top seven vote-getters earned seats on the Council. Former Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. captured a seat, joining incumbents Mason Chock, Felicia Cowden, Luke Evslin, Arryl Kaneshiro and KipuKai Kualii in the top seven after the first vote count. Finishing in the No. 5 spot was Billy DeCosta.
Carvalho was first named mayor in 2008 when Bryan Baptiste died in office. He then won election twice, leaving office in 2018, when he finished third in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor.