HILO — Lincoln Ashida lost an early lead Saturday night and found himself facing former co-worker Mitch Roth in a Nov. 6 runoff for county prosecutor.
The winner needed 50 percent plus one vote to prevail in the primary.
With all 43 precincts reporting, Ashida had 18,794 votes, or 49.8 percent. Deputy Prosecutor Roth had 12,376 votes, or 32.8 percent. Criminal defense attorney Paul Dolan had 6,572 votes, or 17.4 percent.
Ashida, who as Corporation Counsel is the top civil lawyer for Hawaii County, is seeking to move back to the criminal side, where he’d oversee about 30 deputy prosecutors. Ashida himself was a deputy prosecutor for 13 years before moving to the civil side in 2000 under former Mayor Harry Kim. His tenure extended through Mayor Billy Kenoi’s first term.
Ashida is running on a law-and-order platform, vowing to prosecute aggressively repeat offenders and get them off the street. He said 20 percent of the offenders commit 80 percent of the crimes. Ashida also said he’d share more information with the public.
“We’re very optimistic. We knew going in with more than two candidates a runoff was always a possibility,” Ashida said. “But we have great supporters, and we have a plan to get our message out.”
Roth is a 14-year deputy prosecutor in Hawaii County after five years as a deputy prosecutor for the City and County of Honolulu. He favors an active approach to crime prevention, including community-oriented prosecution that prevents crime by shutting down drug houses and educating young people on the risks of driving under the influence.
“This whole campaign has been about faith,” Roth said about his come-from-behind votes that got him into the runoff. “We stayed on message. We want to make this a safer, better community. … I have a great group of people to help, and I have faith that whatever happens in November, we’ll have a better community.”
The contest signals a new era at the Prosecutor’s Office after the retirement last year of 20-year County Prosecutor Jay Kimura. Acting Prosecutor Charlene Iboshi, who didn’t run for the post, wasn’t playing favorites early Saturday. She said the office is slated to get six new positions thanks to funding released recently as part of the state’s justice reinvestment project. the money will be used for victim and witness advocates, Iboshi said.
“We’re ready for the transition,” Iboshi said. “I’m really happy that whoever comes in here will do a good job, and the office is in good shape, ready to receive them.”