• By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

The lone ranger

Guam Delegate Michael San Nicolas made a mark for defeating the once unbeatable Madeleine Bordallo, who everyone thought was glued forever to the congressional seat.

He is smart, aggressive, enigmatic and full of youthful idealism. But, serving his first term in the U.S. House of Representatives, the young delegate was off to a bad start. He is facing an investigation by the House ethics committee for allegedly having an inappropriate affair with a staffer and receiving an excessive campaign contribution from a local businessman.

Back home, the Democratic delegate has been in conflict with his party mates, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero and Speaker Tina Muna Barnes, over clashing policy direction and political strategies in the nation’s capital. His pragmatic approach to dealing with Guam-related issues often collide with the sentimental mode of most local leaders. His let’s-allow-everyone-to-vote position on the self-determination issue is frowned upon by Guam leaders who continue to fight for exclusivity.

At times, they engage in a contest of information and interpretation of federal laws and policies— as they did during the discussion on the war reparations for Guam last year. And then again at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, they clashed over the reading of the CARES Act programs in relation to their application to Guam.

Their unashamed exchanges of passive-aggressive social media posts and official press statements have become an exhausting spectacle for the people of Guam, even for cheer leaders and hecklers. They are left wondering how all the bickering would extricate them from the depths of their coronavirus-triggered despair.

Historically, the Guam delegate comes back for many encores. Bordallo represented Guam in the U.S. Congress for 16 years. But between the ongoing ethics investigation and the growing rift with his party mates, San Nicolas’ chances at getting reelected is open to speculation. The upcoming election will be a referendum on his performance, if not a measure of his likability quotient.

The scandals hounding the delegate office make this position more appealing to challengers.

Dr. Robert Underwood — who served in Congress from 1993 to 2003— is seeking to reclaim his old seat, equipped with his statesmanhood and familiarity with the federal landscape. He is vying for the Democratic Party’s nomination in the Aug. 29 primary, vowing to glue the party back together.

The delegate seat has been held by the Democratic Party for nearly three decades. In the general elections, Republican Sen. Wil Castro is taking up the challenge to switch the trend. He is running unopposed in the Republican primary, campaigning to bring Guam to a better direction.

For U.S. territories, navigating the federal system and lobbying for what we want is like placing a wager. We win some, we lose some. The former delegates had feats and failures. Guam’s representative has no voting power in Congress and a fragmented leadership does not help.

In the end, it’s not about the person or the party; it’s about preserving the dignity of the office so as not to divert focus away from a long roster of recurring and unresolved issues affecting everyone on Guam.

Mar-Vic Cagurangan is the publisher and editor of the Pacific Island Times. Send feedback to publisher@pacificislandtimes.com

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