Kapela, Ilagan bring new blood to Democrat House races



When the state Legislature reconvenes in 2021, Puna will have new representation in both the Senate and House.

With most of the votes counted in the first and second printouts, state Rep. Joy San Buenaventura won the Democratic primary by a landslide for the District 2 Senate seat currently occupied by Island Naturals owner Russell Ruderman, who didn’t run for re-election.


San Buenaventura got 7,763 votes in the initial ballot, 79% of the valid votes case, while Smiley Burrows garnered 2,103 votes, or 20%.

“I’m grateful for the confidence of the voters in Puna,” San Buenaventura said. “The strong voter turnout shows that the Legislature passing the all-mail voting actually did work. It actually did bring a lot of voters to the table — and a lot of voters (were) excited and feeling that their vote is being counted.”

In the November general election, San Buenaventura will be opposed by musician Ron Ka-ipo of the Aloha Aina party.

In the House District 4 race, Greggor Ilagan, a former Hawaii County councilman, took the Democratic primary race for the seat San Buenaventura vacated for her Senate run, defeating former County Councilwoman Eileen Ohara.

The tally of valid votes in that race was 3,503, or 61.5%, for Ilagan, to 2,188, or 38.5%, for Ohara.

“He’s a nice young man,” Ohara said. “I hope everybody’s satisfied, that’s all.”

Ilagan didn’t return a call from the Tribune-Herald by press time. He’ll face Republican Hope Cermelj, Aloha Aina candidate Desmon Haumea, and nonpartisan candidate Brian Ley in November.

In the race for House District 1, which stretches from the northern end of Hilo to the Hamakua District, incumbent Democrat Rep. Mark Nakashima will face GOP businesswoman Lorraine Shin in November. Neither were opposed in their respective primaries.

For the House District 2 seat in Hilo, incumbent Rep. Chris Todd will be opposed by Aloha Aina candidate Devin McMackin Sr. in November. Both were unopposed in their primaries.

Rep. Richard Onishi turned back two challengers in the Democratic primary for his House District 3 seat, which encompasses part of Hilo and upper Puna.

Onishi garnered almost 57% of the valid votes, 3,661, in the first printout. Shannon Matson received 2,297 votes, or 35%, while Fred Fogel tallied 535 votes, or 8%.

“I think the voters in my district are engaged, and I think they know my record,” Onishi said Saturday night.

He’ll face Republican challenger Susan Hughes, who ran unopposed in the GOP primary, in November.

Jeanné Kapela secured a commanding victory over Colehour Bondera in the Democratic primary for the state’s 5th House District, which stretches from Kailua-Kona to Naalehu.

The seat, occupied by Richard Creagan since 2014, was up for grabs following Creagan’s June 3 decision to withdraw from the race. Kapela lost to Creagan in the 2018 primary election by a total of 487 votes.

The second printout recorded 4,645 valid votes. Of those, Kapela claimed 3,228 votes, or 69.5%, while Bondera tallied 1,401, or 30.5%.

The 25-year-old Kapela credited inclusivity for her victory.

“Being the first woman, the first Native Hawaiian, and the first person born and raised in the district, there is a level of inclusion that has never been there before,” Kapela said. “People responded in a way that they feel like their voice is being heard. In my campaign, that’s the No. 1 thing that I’ve been focusing on: making sure everyone feels heard.”

In West Hawaii’s sixth and seventh House districts, incumbents Nicole Lowen (D-North Kona) and David Tarnas (D-North Kona and South and North Kohala) will retain their seats after running unopposed in the primary election.


West Hawaii Today reporter Tom Linder contributed to this story.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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