The year 2018–2019 in Guam began on a high note with a series of landmark elections and ended more forebodingly with a federal court case threatening the rights of the island's Indigenous people.
November 2018 saw the victory of Democrat Lourdes "Lou" Leon Guerrero as the island's first female governor. For centuries, chief executives on island have been referred to as "maga'låhi," a colonial appropriation of the CHamoru term for a male leader. With Leon Guerrero's election, she assumed for the first time in modern history the title of "maga'håga," or female leader (pdn, 7 Nov 2018). Leon Guerrero led a local "blue wave" of Democrats who seized a super majority (ten out of fifteen) seats in I Liheslaturan Guåhan (Guam Legislature). Among those elected was former journalist Clynt Ridgell, the first Guam-elected leader of Chuukese descent (pdn, 7 Jan 2019). Leon Guerrero's lieutenant governor, Joshua Tenorio, became the first openly gay man in US history to hold that position.
In I Liheslaturan Guåhan, ten of the officials elected were women, including seven Democrats and three [End Page 195] Republicans. With 67 percent of its legislature made up of women, Guam held one of the highest percentages of female elected leadership in world history. This milestone reflected the wave of women winning public office in the continental United States, but it could also be tied to a resurgence of CHamoru values long suppressed by patriarchal colonialism (pdn, 8 Nov, 2018).
As a way of combining these two narratives, a company called Maga'håga Rising began to sell "The Future is Famalao'an" t-shirts shortly after Leon Guerrero's inauguration. "Famalao'an" is the CHamoru term for women, playing on the popular American hashtag #thefutureisfemale (pdn, 13 Jan 2019). At the same time, the maga'håga appointed Tony Babauta as her chief of staff and Jack Hattig as director of the Chamorro Land Trust Commission. This was despite past scandals involving sexual misconduct toward women—Babauta at the federal level and Hattig at a high school (pdn, 10 Dec 2019; gdp, 19 Jan 2019).
Leon Guerrero survived a divisive four-way primary to become the Democratic Party's nominee. Leon Guerrero and Tenorio beat their closest primary opponents, former Senator Frank Aguon and former Attorney General of Guam Alicia Limtiaco, by under 300 votes (8,218 to 7,958). Aguon and Limtiaco, despite signing a party unity pledge during the campaign, mounted a write-in campaign during the general election. Their effort was boosted through significant self-inflicted wounds by the Republican nominee for governor Ray Tenorio, then lieutenant governor. In the midst of the campaign, Tenorio was charged and tried for official misconduct for taking a police officer's gun. While Tenorio was found not guilty after the election, the scandal tarnished his campaign (pdn, 22 March 2019).
With Leon Guerrero the heavy favorite, much attention was focused on whether or not her camp would be able to garner enough votes to avoid a runoff election. According to Guam law, a candidate must receive a majority of the votes in order to be elected, or else a runoff is held. Aguon and Limtiaco's write-in campaign won an unprecedented 22.9 percent of the general election votes, just 1,258 fewer than Ray Tenorio and his running mate, former Senator Tony Ada (26.4 percent). Leon Guerrero narrowly avoided a runoff by winning 50.7 percent of the votes.
Maga'håga Leon Guerrero, a former nurse, was a pro-choice community activist in Guam in the early 1990s. Guam remains a heavily Catholic island, although recent child sexual abuse scandals have weakened the influence of the church. Though not damaging her campaign, her support for reproductive rights as maga'håga created a minicontroversy.
After the election, Leon Guerrero's Bureau of Women's Affairs began actively seeking an abortion provider for Guam, as there had been no official provider for nearly a year. The bureau director stated that a recent case in which a twelve-year...