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Guam legislature deadlocked over speaker selection


Democratic members of the 37th Guam Legislature face colleagues and guests during the inauguration ceremony for the 37th Guam Legislature on Jan. 2 in the Guam Congress Building in Hagatña. Photo by Frank Whitman

By Frank Whitman


The first session of the 37th Guam Legislature stalled Monday when none of the three nominees for speaker of the legislature were able to garner the eight votes needed to assume the position.


During the inauguration ceremony’s opening ceremonies, the roll call of the legislators, the administration of the oath of office, and a pinning ceremony, Chief Justice Philip Carbullido of the Supreme Court of Guam, who was presiding over the session, called for the election of the speaker.


Sen. William Parkinson, a Democrat, nominated Sen. Joe S. San Agustin, also a Democrat. Democratic Sen. Chris Barnett nominated former Speaker Therese Terlaje, a Democrat.


Republican Sen. Jesse Lujan then nominated Sen. Frank Blas Jr., a Republican.

Sen. Amanda L. Shelton presents her certificate of election to Chief Justice Philip Carbullido of the Supreme Court of Guam during the inauguration ceremony for the 37th Guam Legislature on Jan. 2 in the Guam Congress Building in Hagatña. Photo by Frank Whitman

Carbullido called for a vote by a show of hands. Six senators voted for San Agustin, three for Terlaje and six for Blas. Eight votes, a majority in the 15- member legislature, are needed to select the speaker. Nine of the legislators are Democrats, while six are Republicans.


After Carbullido announced the result of the vote and indicated that none of the three nominees had garnered enough votes to be speaker, he began to call for another vote when Sen. Sabina Perez, a Democrat who had voted for Terlaje, made a motion to recess. The motion passed with eight votes.


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As of this writing, the legislature is in recess “subject to the recall of the presiding officer,” Carbullido said. With no speaker, Carbullido continues as presiding officer. There is no indication as to when the body might be called back into session.


Since the November 2022 election, there had been some indication of a spilt in the Democratic Party over the selection of speaker with Barnett publicly indicating his support for Terlaje and Parkinson stating his preference for San Agustin.


All six Republican legislators voted for Blas.


Barnett and Parkinson are first-time members of the legislature. Lujan is returning to the body after serving as a legislator from 2003 to 2009.


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After recess was announced, Barnett told reporters he supported Terlaje because he respected her leadership and because Guam voters indicated their support for her as well. She was the top vote-getter in the November election.


The “sanctity of the electoral process” was not being respected, he said.


“When the people of Guam speak, I think we as elected leaders have to do our best to listen … to what they’re saying,” Barnett said. “I think what they were saying was very clear on election day.”

Chris Barnett

Barnett had the second highest vote total.


Perez said she supported Terlaje because “I felt she’s a good leader, very intelligent. She leads by example. I respect the work that she’s done.”


She said the deadlock “was a surprise for me, a little twist. I didn’t expect this.”


While she would not reveal any of the discussions taking place in the Democrats’ caucus, she said “We are working hard to try to resolve this.”


Terlaje declined to comment.


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