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Roth on Mayoral Run: ‘We’re all in this together’

December 11, 2019, 6:30 AM HST
* Updated December 11, 7:10 AM
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Hawai‘i County Prosecuting Attorney Mitch Roth announces his bid for the mayoral race in 2020 to a crowd of supporters at Liliuokalani Park & Gardens in Hilo on Dec. 10, 2019. Photo: Chris Yoakum.

Hawai‘i County Prosecuting Attorney Mitch Roth believes there are some things that need fixing on the Big Island. As a self-described problem solver, he’s rolling up his sleeves for a run at the mayor’s seat in 2020.

Though many reportedly knew of his intent to run, Roth officially announced his campaign yesterday at Liliuokalani Park and Gardens in Hilo. He was joined by more than a hundred supporters who cheered and applauded the news.

“I know a little bit about problem solving and one of the things I know, the first thing you do, is you bring the right people to the table—the community, the stakeholders. That means all of us,” he said during the announcement.

Roth talked about the importance of thinking ahead to create job opportunities, infrastructure and housing to benefit the youth who will inherit the Big Island—but in a culturally sensitive way.

“We don’t want to be Maui. We don’t want to be O‘ahu. We want to be the Big Island,” he said.

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Roth told Big Island Now his first order of business, if elected, would be to put together the best team he can to run the County. He also would focus on providing leadership training opportunities to County employees at all levels—not just those in office.

Roth and his supporters pose for a group photo after his announcement to run for Hawai‘i County mayor in 2020. Photo: Chris Yoakum

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“A safe and healthy community is more than just a crime-free community, it’s more than healthy as in medically healthy,” Roth said. “It means a community that has an effective and efficient government. It means a community that is economically stable, that’s vibrant, that has jobs, that we’re thinking not about the problem that’s happening now, but where we’re going to be in 20 years.”

When asked about the stalemate on Maunakea over the Thirty Meter Telescope, Roth said the situation would likely be resolved before the election next year, but referred to his motion as prosecuting attorney for the Hawaiian mediation practice of ho’oponopono. Roth supported the practice in place of a trial for 21 TMT protesters arrested in 2015. The state declined to participate.

“I believe that if we took those steps back then, we wouldn’t be in the same situation we’re in now,” he told Big Island Now.

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Roth has served as the prosecuting attorney for Hawai‘i County since November 2012. Prior to that, he served as the deputy prosecutor in Hilo for 13 years, and as the deputy prosecutor for the City & County of Honolulu for five years.

“It was a difficult decision, leaving as prosecutor, but, on the other side of that, I see that if we go upstream, we can solve more problems before they get to the prosecutor’s office,” Roth said.

Incumbent mayor Harry Kim said he doesn’t know if he will seek reelection yet, but will decide in time for the February filing deadline. Kim said Roth’s announcement was not surprising to him—or most people—and that he wished him well.

“I really feel that I’m more capable of handling this job today than I ever was (at 80),” Kim said.

The next Hawai‘i County mayoral election will be on Aug. 8, 2020.

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