Positioning for 2018
This year’s election is expected to play a big role in the gubernatorial election two years from now because the party that controls the legislature going into the gubernatorial race of 2018 will have a big advantage.
The Republicans are aiming at no less than regaining a majority in the 34th Guam Legislature. Aside from their incumbents, the Republicans are fielding a number of well-known personalities to run for senator. They include former radio personality Louisa Borja Muna, Adelup staffer Amanda Blas, longtime GPD spokesman Albert “A.J.” Balajadia, former GEPA Administrator Eric Palacios, former IT czar Wil Castro, Corrections Director Jose San Agustin, former Sen. Chris Duenas, and DISID’s Ben Servino.
The Democrats, too, have a number of familiar faces running for senator including former Chief of Police Fred Bordallo, legislative staffer Jermaine Alerta, public relations whiz Regine Lee, and Telena Nelson who belongs to a politically prominent family.
In Adelup, Gov. Eddie Calvo is in his last term, and thus, compared to 2014, there will be no “Calvo juggernaut” for both parties to contend with.
For both the Republicans and the Democrats, there is really no “inevitable” candidate in the way that Calvo was a shoo-in for re-election two years ago.
In the Republican camp, Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio is considered by many as the front-runner in the gubernatorial race because he is an incumbent and expected to be the governor’s hand-picked successor. Tenorio was every gubernatorial candidate's favorite number two in previous years because of his strong political clout.
He is said to be the GOP's version of Democrat Frank Aguon—winning every political contest he enters, and always a favorite among voters. But like Aguon in the Democratic side, Tenorio now has higher ambitions and is no longer content to be No. 2. By virtue of his strong performances in the past, Tenorio believes he can actually win the ultimate plum.
And Tenorio is already reshaping himself into gubernatorial material. During his stint at the legislature, Tenorio was known more as the "law enforcement senator" by virtue of his former ties to law enforcement.
But now as lieutenant governor, Tenorio has noticeably widened his interests and concerns, speaking on a variety of island issues, and sounding very gubernatorial.
However, he is not entirely assured of getting the nomination because there are other Republican aspirants, now emboldened by the lack of an “inevitable” Calvo win, who may be encouraged to run for governor like former Gov. Felix Camacho, who is eligible to run again for Adelup, but is currently running for the congressional post this election.
Camacho could have run for governor in 2014, after the four-year prohibition from his last term lapsed. But Camacho – like many other politicians, Democrat and Republican alike – knew that it would be almost impossible to defeat Calvo in that election.
But the circumstances are different now. It’s great timing for Camacho to re-enter politics at this time because no matter how well-regarded and well-known one is, eight years is a long time to be out of the public limelight. Running for the congressional delegate position now is a great way to get the voting public re-acquainted with him. Plus, there’s a safety net in running for office now. If Camacho loses the delegate race, he can still run for governor two years from now in 2018.
But perhaps the more wide open race is in the Democratic camp. Many doubt that former Gov. Carl T.C. Gutierrez will again throw his hat into the ring. Gutierrez may just be the “eminence grise” of the party come 2018, the king maker who will rally the Democrats to whoever the party chooses for standard bearers.
Just like the nullification of the Calvo factor in the Republican side, the absence of Gutierrez in the Democratic Party primary throws the gubernatorial race in that party wide open. There are a lot of veterans and up-and-coming leaders who can’t wait to step into Gutierrez’s shoes.
Leading the way for the Democrats is Sen. Frank Aguon Jr. who has consistently been topping elections for the Democrats since he first entered politics. Aguon has always been a top vote-getter, the only exception being his ill-fated run for lieutenant governor in 2006. After that defeat, he ran again for senator and has never left the top rankings — a remarkable display of political clout.
Aguon has stated unequivocally that he is targeting the top post this time and would no longer settle for number two.
And then there is Sen. Michael San Nicolas who shared the No. 2 spot with Aguon in the recently concluded Democratic primary.
San Nicolas may only have two terms under his belt, but during that time he so distinguished himself and earned the ire of Republicans that there is now talk of a San Nicolas run for Adelup come 2018, if not for governor, then for lieutenant governor at the very least. With his old ties with the Bank of Guam, there are rumors of a Lou Leon Guerrero-Mike San Nicolas ticket.
And finally, there is also Sen. Dennis Rodriguez, another rising star in the Democratic universe, who also consistently placed well in all the elections he’s participated in.
Rodriguez, San Nicolas, and Aguon are all expected to figure prominently in the 2018 gubernatorial race provided, of course, that they win their respective re-election bids this November.