Guam’s gubernatorial candidates continue shunning public debates
Lou&Josh team skips GAR's town hall meeting
By Aurora Kohn
Gov. Lou Leon-Guerrero and her running mate, Lt. Gov. Josh Tenorio, did not show up today at the Guam Association of Realtors' (GAR) virtual town hall meeting for gubernatorial candidates, leaving the screen all to the Republican team.
This was the latest in a series of events in which gubernatorial teams declined to face off in public debates, opting instead to aim their punches at each other through press releases and social media posts.
Elizabeth Duenas, president of the 600-plus strong GAR, said the group was informed by the Leon Guerrero-Tenorio campaign that the Democratic ticket did not commit to attending GAR’s town hall meeting.
“We are just as surprised to hear that the organizers of the realtors’ forum weren’t aware of the situation surrounding all debates leading up to the general election, given how public our team has been regarding Felix Camacho’s unwillingness to attend all debates,” said Rory Respicio, spokesman for the Leon Guerrero-Tenorio campaign.
“Our campaign submitted Gov. Leon Guerrero and Lt. Gov. Tenorio’s responses to their questions in advance of their forum. We were told that if we submitted the response on time, the responses would be read to the members,” said Respicio, general manager of the Port Authority of Guam.
GAR proceeded with the town hall meeting, with just the former governor, Felix Camacho, and his running mate, Sen. Tony Ada, answering questions from the realtors.
“The discussions on the real estate tax, the building permit process, Guam’s housing shortage, the repeal of the business privilege tax increase, the Covid-19 public health emergency and the plans for a new Guam hospital were important to better understand the critical pocketbook issues affecting all of our people,” the Camacho-Ada team said in a statement after the meeting.
The Camacho-Ada team last week turned down invitations to participate in the forums and debates planned by different groups, including the Guam media, the Guam Women's Chamber of Commerce and the University of Guam Student Organization.
The Camacho-Ada campaign set several conditions for participation in the now-canceled forum titled "On the Record" organized by Guam's media outlets.
Alleging "bias," the Republican team asked the media group to move the forum date, change the venue, reorganize the format and replace the moderator.
“That is wrong. Elected leaders are responsible to everyone, not just the people or organizations they like. So long as our schedule permits, Lou and Josh have agreed to debate Felix and Tony, anytime, anywhere, just send us the location,” Respicio said in an earlier statement.
“That said, we will not allow our opponents to dictate to this community who matters and who doesn't. By shutting out CHamoru speakers, women in business, and the island's media--our opponents send a dangerous message and we will not be part of it. It’s either all debates or no debates,” he added.
In a statement on Oct. 10, the Camacho-Ada campaign said the Republican candidates will participate in upcoming forums to be hosted jointly by
the Guam Hotel & Restaurant Association and the Guam Travel & Tourism Association on Oct. 25; the Guam Contractors Association on Oct. 19, and the UOG’s Great Debate on Nov. 3.
In response, Respicio lambasted the Republican team for being selective.
“Everyone matters. And a governor of Guam should not fear the same people they intend to lead,” he said. “If our opponent insists on deciding who counts and who doesn’t we will not enable that discriminatory behavior.”
“Since he refuses to do all debates, we will not share a stage with him. We will be contacting the various groups to offer alternative opportunities to ask us about our plans for Guam,” Respicio said.
Leon Guerrero and Camacho engaged in a debate during a gubernatorial debate hosted by the Guam Chamber of Commerce on Sept. 7.
(With additional reports from Mar-Vic Cagurangan)