Guam’s political idiosyncrasy
Incumbent governors rarely lose party renomination. They have built-in political machinery that includes people who are currently holding appointive positions and campaign supporters who landed government jobs after the first election.
Incumbents have easier access to campaign funds, including government resources that, on the pretext of public service announcements, can be directly or indirectly used to boost the reelection campaign. Of course, it raises ethical questions.
The result of the Aug. 27 primary for the Democratic Party’s gubernatorial election didn’t exactly come as a surprise to many. Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero and her running mate, Lt. Gov. Josh Tenorio, beat their challengers, Congressman Michael San Nicolas, and his running mate, Sabrina Salas Matanane. The incumbent team garnered 62.30 percent of the votes cast, against the San Nicolas-Matanane team’s 37.57 percent.
It was a lopsided match: a well-funded campaign versus cotton candy.
Neither Leon Guerrero nor San Nicolas has the charisma that former Gov. Carl Gutierrez was famous for. But the gubernatorial debate hosted by the Guam Medical Association highlighted the political assets of the incumbent governor. Surrounded by more experienced campaign strategists and speech writers, the Leon Guerrero-Tenorio team overshadowed their opponents.
Besides his team’s weak performance at the GMA debate, San Nicolas was hounded by the congressional ethics investigation.
Leon Guerrero is headed to the general elections on Nov. 8 to face off against former two-term governor Felix Camacho, who stepped out of political hibernation to try his luck at Adelup again.
Camacho launched his candidacy at the height of public cynicism and skepticism over Leon Guerrero’s Covid-19 policies and intentions with the federal coronavirus funds.
The timing back then was almost perfect for his easy comeback. The business sector wasn’t happy with the shutdowns. The administration was engaging in questionable transactions. The people were getting impatient as they awaited their stimulus money. The legislature was frustrated over the stubborn administration’s lack of transparency. The so-called “freedom fighters” were protesting the segregation.
But the Covid-triggered rage is wearing off. Guam voters are sliding back into apathy, as gleaned from the 40 percent voter turnout at the primary elections. Republican voters didn’t even show enthusiasm; only 3,182 went to the polls.
Abortion is one key issue that presents a contrast between Leon Guerrero and Camacho, both endorsing their respective parties’ positions. While both candidates will try to capture the swing votes, Republican leaders are hoping to get San Nicolas’ supporters to migrate to their camp.
In a statement after the primary, Camacho made a personal appeal. “I want to reach out to our friends on the Democratic side of the table,” he said. “Today, only one team could emerge victors and, despite the sting of defeat, we know that your heart and vision was to bring good things to our island. And, we want to invite you to come and join our Camacho-Ada team.”
The Democratic Party, for its part, has promptly issued a reminder of its “Code of Fair Campaign Practices,” which requires “a pledge to publicly support the party’s nominees who are selected in the primary election, and a pledge not to run as a write-in candidate nor to encourage any such movement should the candidate not succeed in the primary election.”
Meanwhile, candidates have begun flexing more political muscles and ramping up their campaigns. Nov. 8 will test the power of gubernatorial incumbency.