By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
It appears that Deputy Prosecutor Mitch Roth has won the race for county prosecutor by a whisper over Corporation Counsel Lincoln Ashida.
With all 43 precincts islandwide reporting, Roth received 27,963 votes to Ashida’s 27,869, a margin of just 94 votes — results that have yet to be certified.
“What a great night,” Roth exulted. “What did I tell you? You gotta have faith.”
“I think we had a great ground game,” he continued. “We had a great team, very diverse. We had Democrats, we had Republicans, we had every single ethnic group and it’s just an amazing team effort.”
Roth also congratulated both his team and Ashida’s for running clean campaigns, saying: “I think we proved that you don’t have to sling mud at each other to be successful.”
Ashida said that he would not ask for a recount.
“It was a real tough campaign,” Ashida said. “I’m really proud of our supporters. They came out and ran a positive campaign. And I congratulate Mitch on a hard-earned victory.”
Roth, 48, has been a deputy prosecutor for 19 years — five in Honolulu and 14 on the Big Island. He emphasized his accomplishments as a community-oriented prosecutor, and said the challenge is to “think smarter, not tougher.”
“I think one of our priorities, right off the bat, is that I want our office to become more problem solvers than paper pushers,” he said. “… We look at the same case over and over again and we’re going to still be handling cases, we’re going to still be prosecuting cases, but I want our deputies to be looking for solutions like we did with ignition interlock, with vehicle towing for DUIs, for nuisance abatement for drug houses, trying to be a little bit more innovative.
“I don’t see us getting more jail cells and putting more people in prison, so we need to be thinking a little bit smarter.”
The 50-year-old Ashida, who was a deputy prosecutor for 13 years before becoming the county’s top civil attorney a dozen years ago, raised more funds and spent more than Roth.
Ashida reported campaign receipts of $101,169.95, and expenditures of $107,591.31. His contributor list is filled with both government and private sector attorneys.
He also has generous monetary support from local unions, including: $4,000 from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1186 Political Action Committee; $3,750 from the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers (SHOPO); $2,500 from the Hawaii Government Employees Association (HGEA); $2,000 from the Hawaii Laborers Union; and $1,000 from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU).
Roth reported campaign receipts of $63,598.66 and expenditures of $58,323.22. His list of contributors appears to have a broader base in the community, and there are no union contritutions listed. There are several attorneys who contrbuted to his campaign — including Deputy Prosecutor Rick Damerville, who made Roth’s largest contribution of $2,040 — but far fewer lawyers than who contributed to Ashida.
Ashida ran on his record as a trial lawyer, including the convictions of three men in the highly publicized Christmas Eve 1991 rape and murder of Dana Ireland in a remote area of Puna. He came within hailing distance of the 50-percent-plus-one vote necessary to win the race outright in the August primary, but fell just short. In that election, he tallied 18,794 votes for 49.8 percent, while Roth garnered 12,367 votes or 32.8 percent.
Paul Dolan, who campaigned on not prosecuting marijuana cases under the “lowest law enforcement priority” initiative approved by voters in 2008, was a distant third with 6,572 votes, or 17 percent, and was eliminated from the race.
Longtime county Prosecutor Jay Kimura, who was elected in 1992, retired in April 2011. First Deputy Prosecutor Charlene Iboshi became prosecutor, but chose not to run for election.
The last contested election for the office, which is now nonpartisan, was in the 2000 Democratic primary, when Kimura defeated former Deputy Prosecutor Brenda Carreira.
Email John Burnett at jburnett at hawaiitribune-herald.com.