Midterm elections on Guam are typically a low-intensity affair. And while the 2020 vote was no different, its results have assumed a political characteristic that will reshape Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero’s power.
A banker, a nurse, a former senator, Leon Guerrero was deemed to be the leader who would take Guam to the right direction. She is the first Democrat to win the island’s chief executive post in 16 years. She is Guam’s first woman governor, backed by the Democratic Party-controlled 35th Guam Legislature dominated by women lawmakers as well as women justices and judges in the judicial branch. The official company rendered her a promising position when she first walked into Adelup. This tiny rock in the Pacific drew the world’s attention for having a government run by a sorority, a political novelty that eventually wore off.
While her first year in office was a long honeymoon period, the coronavirus year has challenged her authority. She was confronted the medical sector’s rebuke for her seemingly tentative maneuver during the early onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, her top-down Covid-19 restrictions on businesses, schools and public gathering spots have extremely polarized the community. Not enough zest, some complain. Over the top, others protest.
The Republicans won’t take it sitting down. They chance their arms to clip the governor’s emergency powers. All the while, Speaker Tina Muna Barnes remains the governor’s loyal ally despite her tendencies to keep the legislature at arms’ length.
Sarah Thomas Nededog, chair of the Guam Democratic Party, believes the government has managed the crisis well. “I think our Guam leaders have done a good job accessing funding, prioritizing spending and supporting the frontlines to identify and treat Covid patients,” she said. “It’s truly a different kind of crisis that they are dealing with. There really isn’t a precedent especially one lasting for months and maybe years.”
Outside of the pandemic, she said, the 35th Guam Legislature has been productive. “There were several laws that were passed to protect the environment. These are crucial especially now in the wake of climate change,” she said.
The next two years will likely be more challenging for Leon Guerrero, what with fewer political allies in the 36th Guam Legislature.
The Democrats managed to retain a majority of legislative seats, but they had a razor-thin margin over the Republicans, who gained two seats in the Nov. 3 elections.