Interview by Aurora Kohn
Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero and her running mate, Lt. Gov. Josh Tenorio are seeking four more years in office. In the primary election, Leon Guerrero will be challenged by Congressman Michael San Nicolas for the Democratic Party’s nomination. San Nicolas is running with longtime broadcast journalist Sabrina Salas Matanane.
Former Gov. Felix Camacho emerged from political hibernation to run for governor again as the Republican Party’s candidate. He is back on the campaign trail with his running mate, Sen. Vicente “Tony” Ada. Their team is running unopposed.
Ahead of the Aug, 27 primary, we asked the candidates to answer some questions about what their priorities would be if elected and where they stand on various issues such as health care, public safety federal relations and economy among others. (San Nicolas did not respond to our questions)
In his own words, Felix P. Camacho, Guam’s former two-term governor, does not have anything to prove. But Camacho said he could not watch from the sidelines, not doing anything as he sees Guam residents struggle with providing for their families’ basic needs. Camacho and his running mate, Sen. Vicente “Tony” Ada, are the Republican Party Guam’s gubernatorial team for this year’s election.
After completing his second term as governor in 2011, Camacho started Rhema Consulting. Camacho’s focus is on the important role Guam plays in providing economic development and social responsibility to local, regional and multi-national companies that have invested or are planning future investments into the territory.
Born in 1957 in Camp Zama, Japan, Camacho graduated in 1980 from Marquette University. He began his public service in 1988, appointed by then Gov. Joseph Ada as deputy director of the Public Utility Agency of Guam and, later that year, as director of the Civil Service Commission.
Camacho served as a senator from 1992 to 2002. He was elected governor in 2002 and re-elected for a second term in 2006. In his first term, Camacho assumed office when Guam was battered by Super Typhoon Pongsona that left the entire island without power and destroyed about 1,300 houses in December 2002.
In 2016, Camacho ran an unsuccessful bid for the delegate seat. Madeleine Bordallo defeated him by a 54-46 vote.
Ada is a member of the 36th Guam Legislature and vice president of Ada’s Mortuary Inc.
He previously served in the 31st, 32nd and 33rd Guam Legislatures.
Ada authored multiple laws dealing with economic development, open government, education, citizen empowerment, public safety and public health- with a focus on issues affecting the quality of life of the people of Guam.
Born in Guam in 1967, Ada is a 1985 graduate of the Guam Community College. He began his career in public service in 1986, enlisting in the U.S. Army, where he served as an aircraft structural repairman. He later served as a military police officer in the U.S. Army Reserves.
Ada served as director of the Guam Department of Youth Affairs in 2009 and later as special assistant to then Gov. Eddie Calvo, focusing on intergovernmental affairs and public policy.
Please state three concrete measures that you would implement to jumpstart Guam’s economy and provide economic opportunities for the greatest number of Guam’s residents. Please provide the timeline.
The first measure, to occur in the first 100 days, will be to do a full audit of the government of Guam general fund to identify key need areas and lay out a plan to adjust funds to executive branch agencies that may be falling behind because of the policy set out in the 2023 fiscal year executive budget.
Second is to engage our tourism agencies and trade organizations to visit our key source markets in the first 90 days to encourage travel and related trade organizations to come back to Guam as it recovers from Covid-19.
Finally, we will roll back the gross receipts tax in the first 100 days to support our local economy and give our island some much-needed relief across all sectors.
In terms of economic diversification, what other industries do you propose to develop to supplement tourism, and how do you propose to develop these industries?
The Camacho-Ada administration will explore off-island investments to build up a new family entertainment center in Tumon adjacent to Ypao Beach and the surrounding areas. There is a need for 21st-century additions to our visitor plan to ensure we can compete with regional tourism centers. The center will, among other things, feature presentations of the CHamoru culture to complement those areas in Tumon that are showcasing our rich heritage and could include a small amusement park to serve the needs of visitors and locals alike.
We have been in talks with investors prepared to undertake this initiative and are excited about how the attraction will kickstart interest in our legacy industry.
What would be your three top priorities for infrastructure development for the island?
The top three priorities for infrastructure include support of the Consolidated Commission on Utilities 2022 Integrated Resource Plan that recommends among other things 400MW of additional renewables by December 2029 to reach 50 percent renewables by 2030 and the integration of renewables beyond 25 percent.
Also, we will prioritize the construction of a new Guam Memorial Hospital in Tamuning. With decades of infrastructure support to GMH, it makes sense to support a community-led effort to build a new hospital in the village that has become the healthcare center of Guam.
The third priority would be to, in cooperation with the Guam Power Authority and the General Services Agency, convert the fossil fuel-based fleet of the government of Guam to electric vehicles and seek support for charging stations across departments to support this emerging industry to include vehicle service, support and education.
How do you propose improving the delivery of government services to the public in terms of accessibility and efficiency? What changes in government procedures would you implement?
We will be transparent. In year one, there will be a push to have all executive branch agencies modernize websites and begin the use of applications and related technologies to streamline more front-facing government of Guam services by the end of the term.
Working with the Guam Public Auditor, our administration will support the Department of Administration, Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services and the Guam Department of Labor as the first three agencies to modernize their respective websites and online services.
Guam plays a key role in the U.S. political strategy in Asia and the Indo-Pacific region. Do you believe that 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 during your term and how do you propose achieving these changes?
We believe that Guam is being treated fairly. The Camacho-Ada administration will prioritize work with the federal government to include the White House, Department of Defense, Department of the Interior and the regional offices of the executive branch agencies to protect the work on Guam’s military buildup that was started over a decade ago.
We will keep the interests of original landowners’ front of mind, especially with the federal government’s return of any excess lands to GovGuam.
We will leverage the assets of the Guam National Guard to increase the force posture in Micronesia and encourage the expansion of Guard resources to support the front line of defending American interests here in the Western Pacific.
The use of illicit and controlled substances has increased on island, causing families economic hardship, a rise in burglaries and thefts and even an increase in the suicide rate on island. How would you control the entry of illicit drugs and how would you curb drug use on island?
We will direct all law enforcement agencies to prioritize drug interdiction in Guam and in collaboration with the attorney general of Guam to prosecute all violent drug offenders to the fullest extent of the law.
Our administration will make policy recommendations to support evidence-based programs to support drug offenders that are working the best and prioritize funding for those across our law enforcement agencies.
We will discuss these related problems with leaders from across the region to find wholesale solutions to drug use in our collective communities and offer solutions to best serve our people.
The Guam Memorial Hospital is inadequate and ill-equipped to meet the hospital needs of the island. What would be your plan of action to solve this problem? Please provide a timeline.
In the first 100 days, our administration will prioritize the modernization of GMH at a new location. We will direct the Department of Public Works, Guam Department of Land Management, GSA and GMH to find alternatives in our hospital district of Tamuning to build a new hospital and find a suitable use for the current GMH, which could include an expansion of the Department of Public Health or Guam Behavioral and Wellness Center.
We would like to begin the design of a new hospital in year two with construction to begin near the end of the first term.
The recent mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas has once again highlighted the tragic consequences of the absence of coherent regulations for the acquisition, possession and use of firearms. What is your position about the right to bear arms? How would you ensure that the members of Guam’s community are protected from irresponsible and illegal use of firearms?
We should always protect our rights under the Constitution, including the right to bear arms. Guam laws relative to gun usage are very strict. We will continue to urge gun retailers to follow all federal statutes and keep gun safety education top of mind.
During your first term as governor, you mentioned about your dream of seeing the unification of Guam and the CNMI. If elected governor again, would you finally initiate the process to get close to this goal?
This is a process that cannot be done alone. Our administration will engage the leaders of the Northern Marianas to discuss it further.
In these changing times, all avenues to strengthen our position and meaningful dialogue to this end will be important to what the future of our region will be. This process must be driven by a community effort for a Constitutional Convention.