• By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

Does birthplace matter?

Leon Guerrero, Tenorio clash over birthplace

Gubernatorial candidate Lou Leon Guerrero has received backlash on social media for claiming she is more qualified to be the governor of Guam by virtue of her birthplace.

“This is my island. I am from here, Ray! I was born and raised here, Ray!” Leon Guerrero said at the Democratic Party’s recent political rally.

“My family is here, Ray! And I am more qualified to be governor of Guam,” Leon Guerrero said, aiming her spiel at her Republican opponent, Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio, who was born in Orlando, Florida.

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“I find it appalling on so many levels,” Tenorio said, smarting from Leon Guerrero’s “I am from here” comment.

Tenorio came to Guam when he was 10 after being adopted by Romeo Mantanona Tenorio, a Chamorro.

“Never mind that she insulted me. How about our Filipino, Chinese and Korean communities or our friends from Palau, the FSM or other nations, many of whom, like me, weren’t born here but have called Guam home for decades?” Tenorio said, noting that immigrants have contributed to Guam’s growth and development.

“They’ve raised their children and grandchildren here. Doesn’t that matter to Lou?” Tenorio asked. “There are also many proud Chamorros whose parents served our nation in the U.S. Armed Forces and as a result, were born on a military base somewhere in the world. Are they less Chamorro in her eyes because of this?”

A video clip of Leon Guerrero’s political pitch has been going the rounds and drawing comments on various social media platforms.

“Childish talk,” one Facebook user said of Leon Guerrero’s comments. “More our people born here and left the island for better future for their children! Stop the nonsense and grow up an adult & stop throwing words to each other over a golden seat,” wrote Berthalee Sanagustin.

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“She's too confident and overdoing it now! What about her hubby? Doesn't she feel bad for him that he's not born and raised here--or from Guam, yet makes a remark like that?” Anna Leo Guerrero commented.

“If Lou believes birthplace is the biggest qualifier for leadership, then what’s next, color of skin, race, or income bracket?” Tenorio said. “If that’s the frame of mind, then she’s not qualified to lead our island at all. Guam’s governor must be the leader for everyone, not just the ones she likes or her supporters or her party. Everyone! Even people like me who weren’t born here but love Guam just as much,"

Leon Guerrero and Tenorio are the official candidates for governor but Sen. Frank Aguon, who narrowly lost to Leon Guerrero in the primary, has re-entered the race as a write-in, making this year's gubernatorial election a three-way match.

In a statement issued Wednesday, the Guam Democratic Party said alleging racism is the Republican camp’s attempt at using the “oldest trick in the book.”

“Let’s be clear: Democrats respect, accept, and love everyone who calls Guam home and works to make it better. No one should be ashamed of the language they speak or where they were born. That’s true whether you come from Mangilao, Manila, or Memphis. We all have a special responsibility to our home.”

The Democratic Party said Leon Guerrero’s 10-second comment, culled from a 10-minute stump speech, were taken out of context.

“The negative campaign against Lou Leon Guerrero is working hard to divide our community by influencing our electorate with false charges and ignoring Ray Tenorio’s failed leadership. How do they claim progress when our island has doubled its debt, lost GMH accreditation, allowed crime to rise, failed our small businesses, and given sweetheart deals to their political friends?,” the statement said.

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