By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
BANK executive Lou Leon Guerrero became Guam’s first female governor following Tuesday’s hotly contested race — preceded by mudslinging— that brought a Democrat back to Adelup.
Based on the Guam Election Commission’s unofficial results, Leon Guerrero and her running mate Joshua Tenorio garnered 18,081 votes, or 50.70 percent of the votes cast, averting a runoff that was speculated as a result of a three-way match.
According to election law, a gubernatorial candidate must obtain 50 plus one to win an election.
Leon Guerrero’s Republican opponent, Lt. Gov, Ray Tenorio and his running mate Tony Ada, received 9,419 votes (26.41 percent), while write-in candidate Frank Aguon and his running mate Alicia Limtiaco received 8,161 votes (22.88 percent).
“This election has been rough for our entire community,” Leon Guerrero said in a brief victory speech before her supporters after the GEC completed the vote count Wednesday morning.
“And as we move forward in healing, Josh and I look forward to working on behalf of all the people of Guam. Over the last two years, you have invited us into your homes. We have listened to your concerns, and with your input, developed a plan to change Guam for the better.”
The only pro-choice candidate in a predominantly conservative Catholic community, Leon Guerrero also battled a conflict-of-interest issue. Her family owns the Bank of Guam, which holds the government of Guam’s account. She also survived allegations of racism resulting from her “I was born and raised here, Ray” speech.
“Now, you have entrusted us with the responsibility to carry out that mandate. Josh and I commit to you that we will apply the principles of fairness, equality and justice to the highest level of your government,” Leon Guerrero said.
“We will fight for fair wages, enhance public safety, health care and education, and work each and every day to improve your quality of life. The healing begins now. The work begins now. And we are honored to be by your side as we enter this new era of change and prosperity.”
Leon Guerrero is the first Democrat to set foot in Adelup since former Gov, Carl Gutierrez ended his term in 2003.
CNMI Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres sent his congratulatory message to Leon Guerrero and Tenorio.
“Lou is a personal friend of mine, and I spoke to her earlier today about continuing the partnerships between our islands and the collaboration between our governments. If given the opportunity to serve as Governor again, I look forward to working with her to build an even stronger relationship between the CNMI and Guam,” Torres said.
“I also want to congratulate every single candidate who successfully won a seat in the Guam Legislature. This election for Guam was historic with the election of their first female governor and a record 10 female senators to the 35thGuam Legislature. The people of Guam have spoken, and I look forward to working with their newly elected leaders to usher in a new era of progress for the Marianas.”
The Tenorio-Ada team has yet to concede.
“We would like to thank our supporters and the people of Guam for exercising their right to vote yesterday. Because of the slim margin for a 50 percent +1 declaration and the absentee ballots that remain to be counted, it is prudent that we wait on this process to be completed next week.”
Leon Guerrero, a former nurse, served as a senator of the 23rd, 24th, 26th, 27th, and the 28th Guam Legislatures before assuming the leadership of the billion-dollar family-owned Bank of Guam in 2011. In 1998, Leon Guerrero ran as the running mate of Sen. Thomas C. Ada in a primary gubernatorial challenge of the incumbent ticket of Carl Gutierrez and Madeleine Bordallo.
Leon Guerrero is the daughter of Bank of Guam founder Jesus Sablan Leon Guerrero and Eugenia Calvo Aflague Leon Guerrero. She earned her nursing degree at California State University, where she also obtained her master’s in public health. She worked as a staff nurse at Santa Monica Hospital in Santa Monica in California. She returned to Guam in 1980 to work at the Guam Memorial Hospital, where she became assistant nursing director.
The rise of women power on Guam is also evident in the incoming 35th Guam Legislature, which will be composed of nine women senators led by Speaker Therese Terlaje, the most senior legislator who topped the legislative race.
Incumbent senators Telena Nelson (D), Mary Camacho Torres (R), Regine Biscoe Lee (D) and Luisa Muna (R) have secured their seats for another term. Former senators, Tina Muna Barnes (D) and Telo Taitague (R) found their way back to the session hall. They will be joined by newcomers Amanda Shelton, Sabina Perez and Kelly Marsh.
Incumbents Will Castro (R) , Joe San Agustin (D) have also been reelected. Also in the mix are newcomers former broadcast journalist Clynt Ridgell and James Moylan.
Landing on the 15th spot, Jose Terlaje (D) is hanging by the thread. With 11,840 votes, Terlaje was ahead of Celestine Cruz Babauta (D), who received 11,768 votes and Adolfo Palacio, who got 11,721. A recount for these spots is anticipated.
The Democratic Party obtained a super majority with 10 members versus the Republican Party’s five.
“History was made today in the U.S. territory of Guam. Voters elected the island’s first female Governor, first openly gay Lieutenant Governor, and, for the first time in the island’s history, women will outnumber men in the Guam Legislature. In fact, in the coming term, it is likely that all three branches of government – to include the judiciary – will be headed by a woman,” the Democratic Party said in a statement.
“10 of the 15 senators in the upcoming 35th Guam Legislature will be women – and most of them Democrats. Democrat Lourdes “Lou” Leon Guerrero captured 51% of votes cast in a three-way contest for Governor, beating the sitting Republican Lieutenant Governor and a write-in candidate and longtime Senator. Leon Guerrero’s running mate Joshua “Josh” Tenorio will become the island’s first ever openly gay Lt. governor.”
“We didn’t win for ourselves, we won for those who wanted change and were willing to work for it. Guam is where America’s day begins and so from our little corner of the pacific begins a tidal wave of change that sweeps across our nation and turns the page on the politics of divide and conquer,” Biscoe Lee said.