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  • By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

A congressional debate that won't happen

Michael San Nicolas Robert Underwood

For the seasoned politician Robert Underwood, getting the incumbent Guam delegate Michael San Nicolas to face him in a debate is like pulling teeth.

Since the beginning of the campaign, the former congressman has repeatedly tried to summon San Nicolas into a public arena, but the young first-term delegate won't leave his comfort zone, opting to respond via social media instead.

The two Democrats are jockeying for the congressional seat in a runoff that will be concluded on Nov. 17. Absentee voting begins today.

Underwood on Sunday announced he has accepted an invitation from KUAM to debate San Nicolas tentatively set for Nov. 12.

"We hope that this debate will afford the people of Guam the opportunity to make comparisons between the candidates. We welcome this opportunity to appear live before the voters of Guam," said Underwood, the retired president of the University of Guam.

A veteran of public speaking who served in Congress from 1993 to 2003, Underwood said it is "an obligation for candidates to participate in unscripted forums."

The voters, he added, must be given an opportunity "to compare the plans, knowledge and, records of those who aspire to represent us in Washington D.C.”

San Nicolas, however, declined a debate anew.

"I grew up with great teachers in our school system, all of whom always taught me ‘never engage with a bully. Ignore them and just focus on what you need to do," he said in a statement.

“The entire Underwood campaign has been nothing but bully tactics and negativity. We will continue to ignore him as we were taught to, and hope that this too can be a great example for our children," he added.

In response, Underwood said, “If Mike San Nicolas cannot defend himself in an open forum in front of the people of Guam, how can he defend Guam in Washington D.C.?”

Underwood and San Nicolas advanced to the general elections, along with Republican Sen. Wil Castro, as result of the cancellation of the August primary, thus turning the congressional election into a three-way race.

Although he led the Nov. 3 election, San Nicolas obtained only 45.95 percent of the votes cast, which did not meet the majority vote (50 percent plus one) required by law to win the seat, hence the runoff election.

Meanwhile, the Republican Party of Guam said it will not endorse either of the two Democratic candidates.

"The party’s belief is that while the individual who emerges victorious on Nov.17 represents the entire community, that it is not in a position of favoring one Democrat candidate over the other," the Republican Party said in a statement.

Just the same, the party asked both candidates to share share their platform, specifically their position "on issues of importance to conservatives. The GOP will play an instrumental role in who emerges victorious on Nov. 17; thus, it is vital for these candidates to appeal to Guam Republicans."

The Republican Party encourages the community, regardless of their party affiliations, to vote during the runoff election.

"Your vote matters, and it is critical that you express that right in assuring that we have a delegate in Congress who represents everyone in our community," GOP said. "The Republican Party of Guam looks forward to working with the individual who emerges victorious on Nov. 17, and passionately believes in developing a partnership which would benefit the community of Guam in general. With this pandemic, now more than ever this is a critical component in our governance."

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