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  • By Johanna Salinas

Students rate incumbent senators' responses to Covid-19

UOG poll predicts a Democratic majority and Underwood winning the congressional race

Political supporters hold candidates' campaign signs at Okkodo Elementary School Oct 17, 2020. Photo by Mar-Vic Cagurangan

Nov. 3 is the last day for Guam voters to cast their votes for the general election. However, many residents have already voted by virtue of the expanded absentee voting law authored by Sen. Kelly Marsh-Taitano.

Guam's youth are becoming more politically engaged and interested in current events. Many of them volunteer for campaign teams of their choice candidates.

The University of Guam Political Science Student Association's 6th Meet the Candidates: Senatorial forum had 450 attendees over the three-day series streamed on its Facebook page and has been viewed by over 3,400 people. 72 percent of attendees indicated that they are registered to vote in Guam, and 56 percent took advantage of early voting. The audience was also provided with a post-attendance mock election ballot with a list of candidates who participated in each night's forum.

The poll showed the 36th Guam Legislature is likely to be dominated again by Democrats and Dr. Robert Underwood will returnto Congress. Click here to view results based on votes cast each night.

McKenzie Quitugua, a University of Guam student, is also grateful for Marsh-Taitano's absentee law. “I voted early, because it’s easier and safer during this pandemic,” she said.

UOG student Aria Palaganas appreciates the opportunity to vote early. “I scheduled an appointment through GEC,” she said. “The mentality I had was to get the voting done early, so I could avoid the crowd on Nov. 3. It made me feel safer. When I got there, there was no one around and there were procedures with being sanitized and the GEC staffer were Covid friendly and cautious. In that environment, I felt safe.”

Bob, a college student, is grateful for the opportunity to vote early. “I voted early because it’s safer during our current status. I wanted to exercise my right and exercise our new law."

On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest, the students were asked to rate the incumbents' response to the pandemic.

Bob rated the incumbents as a 4. “I think the current leaders are responding to the pandemic well, as to what has happened so far. They're doing their best each day with the information each day,” he said. “Some incumbents I voted for were Therese Terlaje, Sabina Perez, Kelly Marsh-Taitano, Tina Muna Barnes, Telo Taitague and Mary Torres.


Where they stand on saviong southern Guam

On Sept. 23, Save Southern Guam sent out a seveb question survey to all the 2020 senatorial candidates to find out their views on issues such as the reinterment of CHamoru ancestral remains, the Southern Development Master Plan and Task Force, the Guam Land Use Commission and development in Southern Guam. Out of 30 candidates only 11 responded to the survey. While the Save Southern Guam does not endorse any political candidates, it shares the responses of all the candidates that are campaigning for a seat in the 36th Guam Legislature. "These individuals will be crafting policies that will affect our island for generations to come," the group said. Click here to view their responses.


Quitugua rated incumbents as a 3. “There’s a lot that needs to be developed and worked on, and many incumbents remain stagnant in their work,” she said. “What makes it a 3, is there are current bills and actions I fully endorse, especially ones introduced during the pandemic. A lot of the incumbents are doing their part in social distancing. I've seen a few things that made me question them, because, of course, not all senators are going to be as safe as they can be. I think they’re doing pretty OK. I do wish they can do more in regards to keeping everyone safe.”

As the world experiences the pandemic, Palaganas knows that it is currently difficult to fully analyze the whole crisis. “Sometimes the news is hard to follow. Sometimes it’s not digestible and sometimes you don’t want to pay attention if it doesn’t directly affect you,” she said.

“I'd say the incumbent’s level of effectiveness is a 3.5. A solid 3.5. They could look facilities and services that are backlogged that people need. Their responsiveness is kind of lagging in a sense. There's the big debate about the economy. As a business major I do believe businesses should have a plan on how we’re going to boost back our economy. To not only attract other businesses on Guam, but to also expand on our own with what we have. I also think about the health crisis and safety, so I'd give them a solid 3.5.”


Palaganas sais she specifically supports Sen. Amanda Shelton. “Amanda Shelton has an advocate for youth and elderly,” she said. “She was there during the march at UOG for the tuition rise. I liked her energy and her commitment to growing and moving forward. I feel the legislature needs new, fresh ideas from a younger perspective to match the times of the current generations all co-interacting with each other.”

Palaganas feels that a politician's party should not define their actions. “I’m volunteering for Vince Borja, No. 13 newcomer. I'm actually a registered Democratic and he’s a Republican, so you can see the contradiction there,” she admitted. “Though he’s in a different party that I’d normally subscribed to, I'm supporting him. I don’t think we should be basing our government and legislature on parties. We should base it on people who are willing to not be politicians but be public servants for our community and make good substantiative change in their term for the betterment of our island.”


Bob believes that having new leaders in the legislature is a vital part of democracy. He said, “Some new comers I've voted for were Chris Carillo and Fred E. Bordallo. I chose Fred because of his leadership skills are inspirational and he handled the Blue House scandal very well.”

Quitugua agrees that Guam could benefit from different leaders. She said, “The main non-incumbent I voted for was Robert Underwood. I chose him because these past two years, Michael San Nicolas hasn’t lived up to the standards of our congressional delegate. Knowing Underwood’s past and what he can bring to the table, I believe he’s the best candidate for it.”


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