Where gubernatorial candidates stand: Q&A with Lou and Josh
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.)
During their first term in office, Gov. Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero and Lt. Gov. Joshua F. Tenorio had to navigate their way in completely unknown territory as the Covid-19 pandemic claimed lives and ravaged Guam’s economy.
Two and a half years down the road, the Leon Guerrero-Tenorio team stands by its track record and offers its leadership for another four years.
Leon Guerrero, the ninth governor of Guam, is the first woman to be elected to Adelup. She is a registered nurse, a businesswoman. a policymaker, a mother and a grandmother.
A graduate of the Academy of Our Lady of Guam, Leon Guerrero earned a bachelor of science degree in nursing from California State University, and later a master’s in public health from UCLA. She has worked as a state nurse in hospitals in both California and Guam.
Leon Guerrero served five terms in the Guam Legislature.
Following the passing of her brother, Tony Leon Guerrero, in 2005, Lou Leon Guerrero assumed the helm of the Bank of Guam as its new CEO and president. She stepped down as the bank’s head to run for governor in 2018.
Tenorio is the first LGBTQ person to be elected lt. governor in the United States.
He currently serves as chairman of the Islandwide Beautification Task Force, the Interagency Council on Homelessness, and the Guam Product Seal Task Force. He is the co-chair of the Guam Green Growth Steering Committee and has direct oversight over the Guam State Clearinghouse, charged with monitoring federal grants.
After graduating from the Guam Community College Vocational High School, Tenorio served as speaker of the 17th Guam Youth Congress. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and history from the University of Guam.
He served as legislative assistant to Congressman Robert A. Underwood in the U.S. House of Representatives, and as deputy chief of staff to Gov. Carl T.C. Gutierrez.
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.
In the last three years, despite the pandemic and a standstill in tourism, our administration stabilized our financials, retired an $83 million deficit, and collected revenues way above our budget. This was in conjunction with ongoing military construction, an increase in military spending, and an increase in local government spending. We also pushed direct aid into the hands of our people and our businesses, which has helped to jumpstart Guam’s economy.
We also put greater focus on workforce development, shifting the skills of our unemployed and underemployed into higher demand, higher-paying jobs through successful boot camps and apprenticeship programs through GCC and GDOL, in addition to our work with the Guam Trades Academy. We also worked to resolve our H2B challenges.
We put our community health first, recognizing that a healthy economy is dependent on a healthy community.
Once we got our community safe from the pandemic, we were able to gradually lift Covid mandates. Schools resumed in-person learning. Businesses reopened with the help of our administration’s Local Employers Assistance Program.
In terms of economic diversification, you mentioned aquaculture and technology among the new industries you wanted to be developed on Guam? What has your administration achieved regarding this goal?
For agriculture, we established and strengthened the Farmer’s Market, gave grants to farmers to buy equipment and tools to enhance commercial farming, and worked with hotels, restaurants, and schools to purchase local produce. We’ve, as a result, doubled the number of registered farmers to improve our economy and meet our goals for food security and sustainability.
For aquaculture, through the Guam Department of Agriculture and UOG, we’ve hired experts in the field of aquaculture to market and expand the program. We are investing to entice investors in aquaculture to come to Guam through the Department of Agriculture, GEDA, and UOG.
What would be your three top priorities for infrastructure development for the island?
1. Access to water and sewer in undeveloped and underserved areas
2. Improvements to major highways and secondary roads to enhance road safety (ongoing)
3. Expand Internet and broadband to all people in all areas
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?
Automation is key and digitized modernization is a priority. We are in the process of evaluating our government workflow processes to streamline steps in providing government services so they become more accessible and more efficient.
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 and how do you propose to achieve these changes?
My greatest focus is to provide national security for our people in this part of the region. That is why from day one, I have made a commitment to improving our working relationship with the U.S. military. I recognize the strength of our geographic location in the whole of geopolitical politics and policies.
I have established a very close, working relationship with INDOPACOM, and I have established a very good relationship with each of the chiefs of the Armed Forces.
They understand that I am very supportive of the military buildup, with conditions–that they are to respect our environment, our culture, our people, and our land and ocean.
The use of illicit and controlled substances has increased on the 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 illegal drug use on island?
Stronger visibility deters crime and helps support safer streets. I continue to provide our law enforcement officers with the necessary resources and tools for them to do their job.
Working with the federal postal agency, our administration has been successful in allowing the deputization of law enforcement officers as postal inspectors, enabling us to intercept more drugs arriving on our shores via the mail.
In the last three years, we’ve seen an increase in the interdiction of crystal methamphetamine–400 lbs. to be exact—as a result of this action.
We are also providing more customs officers to monitor port entries into our island, both airport and seaport. We have invested in more drug-sniffing dogs, and equipment that can detect illegal drugs, including X-rays, and we are in the process of building a customs facility at the port. We have also invested millions into treatment, a detox unit, and community outreach, and we continue working with GPD and our neighborhood watches islandwide.
We are also working with non-profits that assist with treatment, outreach, and rehabilitation. We’ll be providing cottage homes in Talofofo and standing up a New Beginnings Center.
The Guam Memorial Hospital is inadequate and ill-equipped to meet the hospital needs of the island. What is your plan of action to solve this problem? Please provide a timeline.
We will build a medical complex center that will house all aspects of a healthcare delivery system, including a state-of-the-art hospital, a public health center, a veteran’s clinic, and a Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center.
We are in the process of securing the property from the federal government, and we expect this lease to occur by September 2022. We expect the groundbreaking of a public health laboratory by December 2022. We expect a groundbreaking for the hospital by the end of the calendar year 2023. A veterans clinic will follow by 2024, and the GBHWC by 2025.
I know this is an aggressive agenda, but I am confident in our ability to meet these deadlines.
The recent mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas has once again highlighted the consequences of the absence of a coherent regulation for acquisition, possession, and use of firearms. What is your position on 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?
I am in support of the right to bear arms with restrictions and conditions. Those conditions are background checks and mandated gun safety courses. Only then can a person obtain a firearms ID and be sold a gun.
In the past, you made public statements that Guam was “ready for independence.” Do you still have the same opinion? Do you think Guam is ready to stand on its own?
As governor, I refrain from taking a position, and as chair of the Commission on Decolonization, I must maintain a neutral stance.