- By Gina T. Reilly
The tough race for Congress
Incumbent Guam Delegate to Congress Madeleine Z. Bordallo, who is running for her eighth consecutive congressional term, is facing perhaps her toughest test in this year’s congressional race.
Not only is she facing an experienced politician in Felix Camacho, her rival is also a two-term former governor who is also well-versed in many of the issues facing Guam.
Although belonging to two different political parties, the two have always gotten along (which is unusual in the highly partisan world of Guam politics) and there has always been mutual respect between them. In fact, during the eight years that Camacho was governor, he and Bordallo always worked closely on a number of federal-territorial issues.
Even when Camacho announced his decision to run against Bordallo, the respect was there.
According to Camacho, he spoke first to Bordallo before announcing his plan to run for the congressional seat and it was obvious that Camacho has a lot of respect for Bordallo’s accomplishments when he said that he would “build on the positive policies” that Bordallo had initiated should he win the congressional race.
But Camacho also says it’s time for Bordallo to step down. "I respectfully waited for her; we worked well together, but it's time," Camacho said. "I think it's time for a fresh perspective. I'm relatively young as politics go and I bring this vast experience as a two-term governor, four-term senator, former cabinet member in GovGuam and my private sector experience – all of that I bring with me to the position of Delegate to Congress and I believe I'm well qualified to step in."
It’s no secret that Camacho had always wanted to run for Congress. The two-time Republican governor had expressed this interest way back in 2010, when his second and last term as governor was ending. He even sent to D.C. his right-hand man at the time, Shawn Gumataotao, to head the Washington D.C. office, reportedly in preparation for Camacho’s congressional campaign.
But this did not materialize and six years had passed. Legally, 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 incumbent Gov. Eddie Calvo in that election. So Camacho, in the meantime, decided to just work on his family’s various businesses, including prominent real estate developments and the bringing in of big-name restaurant franchises.
But politics seems to be in the Camacho blood, especially in this son of Guam’s first elected governor, and Camacho himself says that public service has always been his calling. So now he is finally back in the political arena and finally realizing his dream of running for Congress.
Camacho, however, is facing an uphill climb. Bordallo, the incumbent Guam Delegate, already has seven consecutive terms in Congress under her belt and is a veteran politician who is usually always one step ahead in reading political scenarios.
Bordallo is not only the first woman ever to serve as Guam's Delegate, she was also the first female Lieutenant Governor of Guam (from 1995 to 2003), the first female candidate for Governor of Guam (in 1990), and the first female Democrat elected to the Legislature of Guam. And as the wife of the late former governor Ricky Bordallo, she was also the First Lady of Guam from 1975 to 1979 and 1983 to 1987.
Bordallo is unique in the world of Guam politics in that for the longest time, she has managed to get the nod of not only her fellow Democrats but also the Republicans across the aisle.
And she deserved that respect for she is truly effective as a public official — smart, tireless, and a master of politics, having apprenticed under no less than her late husband, Ricky Bordallo, probably the most brilliant politician the island has ever produced.
Although she is facing tougher competition this year, Bordallo said she is looking forward to the election this November and continues to be humbled by her supporters’ continued confidence in her abilities to serve as Guam’s delegate to Congress.
Bordallo said she is running for re-election to build on the progress that she already made during the course of her previous congressional terms. “Guam needs a steady and dependable leader in Washington who will continue to fight for our priorities and make our voice heard to all federal officials and leaders,” she said.
Bordallo cites her advantage of having a senior position in Congress, and having established solid working relationships with members of both parties. Bordallo also points out that she is the ranking member of the armed services readiness subcommittee and natural resources committee. In particular, Bordallo said her work as part of the readiness subcommittee enabled her to work with the committee in charge of addressing issues such as the delay in the issuance of H-2B visas for workers.
In addition to her congressional committee responsibilities, Bordallo also serves as the vice chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and the co-chair of the Congressional China Caucus and the Congressional Long Range Strike Caucus. She is also a member of the U.S. Philippines Friendship Caucus, the Korean Caucus, the Army Caucus, the Navy/Marine Corps Caucus, the National Guard and Reserve Component Caucus, the Travel and Tourism Caucus, the Women’s Caucus, the Taiwan Caucus, the Long Range Strike Caucus, and the Wounded to Work Caucus, among others.
“Guam needs a leader in Washington who can bring diverse coalitions together and to pass important and meaningful legislation,” Bordallo explained.
Bordallo also acknowledged her competitor. “I will have competition but I welcome this competition,” she said.
Race to watch
In most of her congressional runs, Bordallo has never really faced a heavyweight political figure in both the primary and the general election. More often than not, she ran unopposed and many times, even the Republicans supported her.
But with a seasoned and highly regarded politician like Camacho entering the fray, this November’s congressional race may be different. And this year being a non-gubernatorial election year, the congressional contest may be the race to watch come November.