The 2022 race for Guam delegate seat: Q&A with Sen. James Moylan
By Aurora Kohn
Antonio Won Pat, a Democrat, was the first Guam delegate elected to the U.S. Congress, where he served from 1973 to 1985. He was succeeded by Ben Garrido Blas, the only Republican to hold the non-voting seat, who served from 1985 to 1993.
For nearly four decades, the congressional seat has been the Democratic Party’s turf.
Robert Underwood held the seat from 1993 to 2003. He was followed by Madeleine Bordallo, who served multiple terms from 2003 until she was defeated by San Nicolas in the 2018 elections.
San Nicolas, who is serving his second term in Congress, is not seeking reelection. He has joined the gubernatorial race.
This year, Won Pat’s daughter, former Speaker Judi Won Pat, is seeking to follow in her father’s footsteps. The Democratic primary slated for Aug. 27 will pit Won Pat against Sen. Telena Cruz Nelson.
Sen. James Moylan is the Republican Party’s official candidate for the congressional seat.
In separate Q&As, the three candidates presented their action plans if elected to Congress. Their responses were slightly edited for space consideration.
James Moylan is not one to back away from a challenge. The two-term legislator, known for his advocacy of transparency in government and his ability to work “across the aisle” to get things done, believes he is ready for his next challenge. He is the lone Republican contender.
Moylan earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Guam. He was a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army and served as a parole officer at the Guam Department of Corrections. He managed the life and health departments at Moylan’s Insurance Underwriters, and government accounts at NetCare Life & Health Insurance Company.
What, in your opinion, makes you the best choice to represent Guam in the U.S. Congress?
I believe I bring a balanced approach in terms of qualifications and experiences to represent Guam in Congress. As a sworn law enforcement officer during my tenure at the Department of Corrections, I’ve seen firsthand the challenges families face when it comes to the drug epidemic. I spent a good part of the past 20-plus years in the insurance and financial services industry, inclusive of healthcare.
My parents taught me that success will only come from hard work. As a teenager, I worked in a warehouse moving boxes, and when I was 18, I had to be up at 3 a.m. every weekend to drive tourists to the old Harmon flea market. As a senior in high school, I took advantage of the half-day classes, so I could work part-time and help pay the bills. These jobs instilled strong values and ethics in me.
My track record of hard work, action, and remaining consistent from day one, while working in a collegial manner across the aisle, is what I would say differs me from other candidates.
If elected, what top three rights or benefits would you work to secure for Guam’s island community?
1. Finding solutions to address this inflation crisis. Guam has its unique situation. We need to work collectively to find options, inclusive of special exemptions with the Jones Act.
2. Finding resources to help our law enforcement officers to be better equipped in addressing the drug epidemic on the island, including the funds to get the long-awaited Customs Screening Station constructed. As for CQA, we will work closely with the agency to see if there is a possibility for some federal support to bring the officers the needed resources and compensation to be competitive with their current federal counterparts.
3. Veterans’ issues will be a priority, such as seeking support for medical services and other benefits. A key objective would be to assure that Guam is included in programs available to veterans in other states and jurisdictions. I would also explore the possibility of adding the Guam Veterans Cemetery to the National Registry, to obtain financial support for upkeep.
Do you think Guam should limit the political status plebiscite to native inhabitants? What would be your plan of action for Guam to have the opportunity to decide its political status and enact or adopt its own constitution?
Guam today is a melting pot, and with a court decision requiring an inclusive plebiscite, we need to open the discussion and vote to all American citizens who call Guam home. This may not be a popular answer for some, but if we were to continue the argument of who should make the decision, we will never get to the next phase of “what next?”
I would like to place a plebiscite in the 2024 general election, granted that there is adequate education in the options for the community.
Regarding Guam adopting its own constitution, this is certainly an issue that needs to be brought back to the table for further discussion. The groundwork needs to be laid with the federal government now.
I saw firsthand the efforts of Puerto Rico with their objective of seeking statehood. It will still take them years to obtain the preferred outcome, but you must start somewhere. If elected, I will lay some of the foundations.
China of late has been aggressively pursuing diplomatic and economic relations with the island nations in Micronesia. In your view, what is the potential impact of these developments on Guam? As Guam’s delegate, how would you protect Guam’s interests?
My belief is that Guam’s delegate to Congress is also a representative of the region. This was a message I echoed with (Federated States of Micronesia) President David Panuelo recently in a meeting. There is the possibility of a greater adverse impact on Guam if some of the island nations of Micronesia enhance their relations with China.
As a delegate, I will continue a relationship with the leaders of FSM, Palau and Marshall Islands and enhance the dialogue. This will include working with members of Congress to assure that this region is a priority, and not just for military reasons.
What do you think of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in U.S. v. Vaello-Madero? Do you think there is an avenue left for Guam to secure Supplemental Security Income benefits for its qualified residents? If so, what actions would you take to secure SSI benefits for Guam residents?
As the court decision indicated, SSI was created by Congress, and can only be modified by Congress. So yes, I believe there is an avenue for Guam to secure SSI. I am committed to reintroducing Congressman San Nicolas’ bill on my first day in Congress, if it does not pass by year-end.
I have been in discussions with some GOP members of Congress that this is a critical issue, and that I will need their support on the legislation. While there are funding issues, they have indicated their interest in assisting us to address this inequity for the territories.
The Jones Act restricts maritime transportation of cargo to Guam to ships that are U.S.-owned, U.S.-crewed, U.S.- registered and U.S.-built. As a result of the Jones Act, Guam consumers shoulder the higher transportation cost of goods. Do you think that the Jones Act should continue to apply to Guam? How would you work for Guam’s interests on this issue?
I join many on island in stating that there need to be some Guam-level exemptions to the Jones Act. This is not a new discussion for Guam, but one that needs consistency and now more than ever it must be brought back to the table.
Addressing our inflation crisis is a priority of mine, and this means finding ways to reduce the cost of food, diapers and other everyday commodities that enter our island. I will discuss these with various stakeholders, including the shippers and members of Congress, toward legislation. There must be a greater education in the process, one which our team is ready to pursue.
Guam plays a key role in the U.S. political strategy in the Indo-Pacific region. Do you believe Guam is being treated fairly and justly compensated for the role it has been given? If not, what changes in Guam’s relationship with the U.S. would you work on and how do you propose achieving these changes?
I don’t believe Guam is being treated fairly and justly compensated for the role that we play. Whether it be not having SSI, or not obtaining additional federal support for our schools, prison and hospital, considering the costs that have escalated for our island due to being a part of the COFA agreement.
We need to build relations and allies in Congress. This will help Guam negotiate for more equity.
We need to strive toward an improved status because it will help better position Guam on the table.
If there is indeed a red wave heading toward Congress, particularly in the House, then Guam should be in a better position to build these relationships if a Republican is sent to Congress.