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Veteran prosecutor Mitch Roth clinches victory in Big Island mayoral race

Updated: Nov. 4, 2020 at 10:25 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - In the race for Hawaii County mayor, Mitch Roth secured a victory over community organizer Ikaika Marzo.

By the final printout, Roth garnered 50,370 votes, or 56.9%. Marzo earned 40.5%, or 35,887 votes.

They were the top two voter-getters in the primary election, beating out incumbent Mayor Harry Kim.

While Marzo and Roth were competitive during the campaign, they were able to keep things friendly and sought to avoid the usual political mudslinging.

Roth said throughout election night, he and Marzo shared text messages as they eagerly awaited the first printout.

“I think the campaign we both ran, we ran it on dignity, respect, aloha. And I think that’s really important, the campaign that we ran and Ikaika ran shows that you can be friends, you can agree to disagree and still be friends, and still treat each other with aloha, dignity and respect,” Roth said in a victory speech to Hawaii News Now.

“I think that’s really important moving forward because there’s a lot of things that we need to fix on the Big Island, and it helps if everybody is working together, paddling the canoe in the same direction versus what’s going on on the national level,” he added.

Roth, 55, was in his second term as prosecuting attorney for the County of Hawaii when he launched his mayoral campaign in December of last year.

He ran with the priorities of balancing tourism with a diversified economy, hoping to explore more renewable energy ventures along with agriculture, science and technology.

“The idea is we need to make sure that our island is moving forward, making sure that our keiki can raise their keiki here. Making sure that our government is treating people with dignity and respect, and we’re a government that helps people thrive and succeed," Roth added.

His stance along with public record was enough to sway undecided voters away from Marzo, who gained community hero status through his leadership of organizing donations during the 2018 Kilauea eruption.

Community members nicknamed him the “Mayor of Puna” after he was pivotal in setting up Pu’u Honua O Puna, a donation hub for families fleeing the lava flow. Many also looked to Marzo for crucial communication about the eruption.

“We fell short, but that’s OK,” Marzo said, acknowledging it was his first bid at political office.

In a concession speech Tuesday night, he said he would continue doing the community work he’s become known for.

“I’m going to keep on doing what we have done before and that’s who I am. That’s who we are, the Marzo for mayor team, that’s who we represent, the people on this island,” Marzo said.

As a business owner himself, he previously said he thought it was time to get Hawaii island residents working again, but safely.

He owns Kalapana Cultural Tours, and although he’s never held public office, he thinks a formal elected role isn’t needed to create change in the community.

“I have led a community through a disaster and now I’m going to bring our community to thriving and be the best community Hawaii ever seen,” he previously said.

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