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  • Writer's pictureBy Alex J. Rhowuniong

First-time candidates speak at accountants meeting

Compact issue sparks debate between two candidates

Brand new candidates running for office for the first time. From left, Harold Cruz, Marsh Taitano, Leevin Camacho, Jack Hattig III, Clynt Ridgell and Lasia Casil.Photo by Alex Rhowuniong

Guam’s brand-new candidates running for office for the first time got a chance to share their platforms with members of the Association of Government Accountants-Guam Chapter and their friends on Wednesday afternoon at the Hilton Guam Resort and Spa in Tumon.

AGA-Guam provided the forum for the 11 senatorial hopefuls and Leevin Camacho, candidate for attorney general, during their general membership meeting for the month of September. “These are exciting times,” said AOA-Guam Chapter director of programs/technical meetings, Vince Duenas, in his opening statement, “there is something happening in 40 days, and that something is actually the general election, Nov. 6, that will decide the future of our island.” The brand new candidates were each given a three-minute opportunity in this forum to introduce themselves and then share their plans after the upcoming election in November. A majority of the group said they have fixes for government woes, and promised they’d work very hard to create a better place for the people.

The first-time candidates include: Jenei Aguon, Celestin Babauta, Lasia Casil, Harold Cruz, Jack Hattig, Kelly Marsh, James Moylan, Sabina Perez, Clynton Ridgell and Amanda Shelton. During the forum, Cruz touched on one of his more controversial platforms—to place a moratorium on the Compact of Free Association.

Immigrants from COFA nations are those from the Palau, Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of the Marshalls Islands.

“I am calling for a moratorium on the COFA treaty,” Cruz said, adding that if elected he would like to fight also to get Guam reimbursed adequately for Compacts impacts. “I blame the U.S. Congress.”

Cruz said his wife and kids are from the island of Palau. “So there’s no discrimination, no racism here. My fight is with the federal government,” Cruz said.

Such a spiel prompted a response from Ridgell, a former broadcast journalist whose mother is from Chuuk. “I was going to talk about other things,” said Ridgell, “but Harold talked about COFA migrants. I felt I have to say something to counter some of that rhetoric.” “One of the issues I have is with this idea that COFA migrants are the reason for Guam’s financial troubles, which I believe is 100 percent false,” Ridgel said. “I grew up here before there were very many COFA migrants at all on Guam.”

Ridgell remembered as a kid his dad talking about a threat of payless paydays, almost every other month. But there was never a payless payday. The government leaders always found a way. “Now, here we are years later, it’s the same rhetoric again— payless paydays,” Ridgell said. He said there are structural issues within the accounting and finances of the government. “We have problems with the way we do our budgets here on Guam,” Ridgell said. “Ten years ago, our budget was about $500 million. It’s now at $900 million. How is it we’re still struggling when it’s almost doubled in 10 years? We’re just not spending the money properly. We’re also not accounting for the money properly.” “Tons of problems with our finances that have nothing to do with COFA migrants.”

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