HILO — Upstart challenger and community college student Greggor Ilagan knocked first-term Puna Councilman Fred Blas out of his seat Tuesday with a 1,419-vote margin.
Blas had bested Ilagan by 135 votes in a three-way primary, but didn’t get the required 50 percent plus one vote to win the seat outright. He lost a lot more ground Tuesday, garnering 2,376 votes, 38.5 percent, to Ilagan’s 3,795 votes, or 61.5 percent, with all three precincts reporting.
Ilagan, 26, will be the youngest Hawaii County Council member in county history. He is from a small province in the southern Phillipines and has lived in Hawaii 19 years. He’s an accounting student at Hawaii Community College and was formerly with the Air National Guard.
“We had a really strong campaign that got the word out,” Ilagan said. “Puna has spoken, and now we’re heading in the right direction.”
Because of redistricting, the District 4 seat is now one of two Puna seats. District 4, Puna Makai, runs makai of Highway 11 and takes in Leilani Estates to the south. The other seat, Council District 5, or Puna Mauka, was won outright by Windward Planning Commission Chairman Zendo Kern in a three-way primary battle.
Asked what most differentiated him from his opponent, Ilagan said, “It’s just being honest. It’s being who I am and people have responded to that.”
Blas, 64, is from Guam and has lived in Hawaii for 14 years. He’s a retired business manager who studied business administration at Long Beach (Calif.) City College. He couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday evening.
Blas has been somewhat of a lightning rod in the ongoing debate over expansion of geothermal drilling in Puna. Recently, two residents filed an ethics complaint against him on another matter, statements he made about late poll openings in Puna that weren’t backed up by information released by the state and county elections offices.
Blas’s contention that geothermal is necessary for Puna is supported by Ilagan.
Both candidates also agreed that the state and county need to invest in roads in the Puna districts.
While Ilagan has criticized Blas for not engaging in more debate on the council, Blas has been quietly doing his own small part for the county budget by giving up 10 percent of his salary and not charging the county for conferences, travel, cellphone or mileage or gas expenses.