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The Contemporary Pacific 14.1 (2002) 188-198

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Micronesia in Review:
Issues and Events, 1 July 2000 to 30 June 2001


Donald R Shuster
Micronesian Area Research Center, University of Guam

The Guam legislature's biennial general elections took place amid tension between Governor Carl T C Gutierrez and the legislators. At issue were the attempt to remove the governor from office via recall, and control of the Guam Election Commission. Much of this tension was a carryover from the legal challenge of the gubernatorial results mounted by former Governor Joe Ada and his running mate, Felix Camacho, who lost to the Gutierrez-Bordallo ticket in the 1998 election. Their legal challenge went all the way to the US Supreme Court, which rendered a decision in favor of Gutierrez, but the whole appeal process took fourteen months. Because of the delay, the Gutierrez-Bordallo team was denied the outpouring of good wishes, adulation, and community confirmation that traditionally accompanies an outdoor, public inauguration.

In the legislature's November election, 33 candidates vied for 15 seats, 2 stood for the national congress, and 5 entered the first race for the position of public auditor. Village mayoral and vice mayoral seats were contested as well.

For the twenty-sixth legislature, 13 of the 15 incumbents were seeking reelection, and candidates were looking to raise and spend some $40,000 for the typical campaign, which included roadside billboards; newspaper, radio, and television ads; donations to other campaigns; and fund-raising parties. Only 5 of the 33 candidates were women; all but 1 candidate identified with either the Democratic or the Republican party, and 4 reported a net worth in the millions of dollars. Interestingly, of the 3 who reported net worth at zero or in the negative, 2--Angel Santos and Mark Charfauros--were elected.

The race for the 15 legislative seats was in many ways a contest of influence and will. Governor Gutierrez was intent on breaking the Republican "super-majority," which held 12 of the 15 seats in the Twenty-fifth Guam Legislature. He announced his list of 14 favorites, but only 3 of them garnered enough votes to win. The losing group included Cliff Guzman, Angel Sablan, and Rick Unpingco, Gutierrez cabinet members, and former senator [End Page 188] Ted Nelson. Of the 7 nonincumbent Democrats who won, many are not Gutierrez supporters, notably Angel Santos and Mark Charfauros. Among the Republicans, several multi-term senators lost: Simon Sanchez, Tony Blaz, John Salas, Carlotta Leon Guerrero, and Alberto Lamorena. The top vote-getter was Tom Ada (23,047 votes) who earned that distinction for the third or fourth time. Only 3 women won seats: Joanne Brown (incumbent), Lou Leon Guerrero, and Judy Won Pat, the last 2 being former senators. Former governor and legislative Speaker Joe Ada won, coming 14 th in the 15-seat race.

Several curious dynamics were at work in the legislative race, some of them deriving from past skirmishes such as the court fight over the 1998 gubernatorial election. In August, Governor Gutierrez had appointed an election commission not in conformance with the new election law, which had been written to prevent the documented irregularities of the 1998 race. Gutierrez essentially chose whom he wanted, claiming that those appointed would be above partisan politics and that he was acting in accord with his powers under the Organic Act. The Republican party and the legislature filed suit, arguing that the law required the governor to choose three individuals from each of the lists provided by the two political parties. The case was decided in their favor, and Gutierrez appealed. This tug-of-war led Senator Tony Blaz to begin a recall movement in late September 2000, ratcheting up the pressure. The recall petition alleged that the governor had not submitted various reports to the legislature as required by law, had instructed executive-branch employees not to assist the legislature in its budget work, had not followed the law in his appointments of election commission members, and had misspent government resources. In early October, the tension spilled over into the street near the legislature...


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