Mitch Roth, a deputy prosecuting attorney, bested Corporation Counsel Lincoln Ashida by just 94 votes Tuesday evening to become the county’s next prosecutor.
Roth, reached at a friend’s home, and his supporters reacted with shouts and cheers when he announced the vote count, 27,963 votes for him, 27,869 for Ashida. That gave Roth 50.1 percent of the votes cast to Ashida’s 49.9 percent.
“This whole campaign has been run on faith,” Roth said. “This is just awesome.”
His slight lead didn’t surprise him, he said.
“I expected it to be close,” Roth said. “Last year, I had this feeling of fear. I asked God for some guidance.”
Ashida said he appreciated the clean contest he and Roth ran.
“I want to congratulate Mitch on a real hard-earned victory,” Ashida added.
Ashida took an early lead, with the first results printout showing him ahead of Roth by nearly 1,600 votes, putting him ahead of Roth by about 6 percent. Ashida’s lead shrank to 2 percent with roughly two-thirds of precincts reporting. Roth pulled ahead with the last printout.
Roth, a long-time deputy prosecutor, described himself as an innovator, highlighting his involvement on Oahu in creating community programs to address issues before they lead to crime. He said the criminal justice system is broken, and the state is expending too many resources sending people to jail, rather than addressing the root issues behind many crimes. Roth highlighted his involvement in bringing the Shattered Dreams program to Kealakehe High School several years ago, and the subsequent decrease in alcohol-related traffic fatalities following graduation now that the program is in place.
Though he brings more experience in the prosecutor’s office, Roth ran on a platform to move the office away from the status quo. He said the office should look for ways to impose sentences other than just jail time, including more kinds of house arrest that put the cost of at-home incarceration on the defendant rather than the state.
Ashida noted his extensive jury trial experience, including prosecuting the defendants for Dana Ireland’s murder in the 1990s. He also has years of experience running an office as the county’s Corporation Counsel, the county’s lead attorney. Ashida said a prosecutor’s office under his leadership would deal “harshly” and “expediently” with repeat offenders.
He also said he wanted to see more a collaborative effort between the prosecutor’s office and the Police Department, especially when tracking the root causes behind crimes such as repeateddrinking and driving. He wanted to see more collaboration with the state’s probation officers, too.