Delegate race thins: Babauta, Lee, Cruz not running; Underwood still possible

Guam Election Commission (PNC file photo)

Guam is just 12 days away from the filing deadline for candidates for the 2020 election and the possible contenders for Congress are thinning out.

While the mayor and vice-mayor packets are piling up at GEC, no one has officially registered as delegate yet.

Not even the incumbent, Michael San Nicolas, who did not respond to a request for comment.

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Tony Babauta, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero’s former Chief of Staff, was rumored to be eyeing the seat. However, he confirmed with PNC News that he will not be seeking the nomination.

In a statement, Babauta said: “There’s a lot at stake for Guam in the years to come from COVID-19 economic recovery, military build-up, Compact renegotiations, and other longstanding issues where we continue seeking equal treatment in federal policies to make life better for us on Guam. I’m looking forward to the election and a candidate that can demonstrate experience, will work with local leadership, and puts our island, our veterans, and our people first.”

Senator Regine Biscoe Lee was also said to be considering throwing her name into the hat as a democrat delegate. However, the Senator confirmed Thursday that “no, she will not be running for delegate.”

There was talk of Benjamin Cruz, Guam’s Public Auditor, also vying for the Democratic congressional delegate nomination. However, he too, confirmed with PNC News, that he will not seek the position, saying that he’ll be looking for re-election as public auditor.

“I was planning on running but the pandemic and my responsibilities to the office I currently hold causes me to change those plans. I still have to usher out eight financial audits before the end of the month. These audits include the GovGuam Audit, GMHA, GDOE, GHURA, GHF, and the TAF to name a few. I also have several performance audits that we are overseeing which include the COVID audits. I have procurement appeal hearings scheduled this month and next. I had hoped to complete these before I started campaigning. Since everything has been delayed by the pandemic, I believe my primary responsibility is to the office I currently hold. I am therefore unavailable to run for Delegate. I will seek re-election as Public Auditor,” said Cruz.

There’s a nominating petition floating around to support former delegate, Dr. Robert Underwood, as Guam’s Democratic representative in the U.S. House. While that nominating petition is a standard part of GEC’s applicant packets, indicating a package is being filled out for the long-time Guam politician, Underwood told PNC News that he has no comment currently and that he’s still finalizing his decision. 

As for the Republican field, there’s a lone, currently uncontested candidate. Senator Will Castro is the only GOP hopeful openly campaigning for the job, and no other strong contenders rumored for the role.

Maria Pangelinan, the executive director of the Guam Election Commission, says delegates have more legwork to do for their packets, needing 500 vetted signatures to support their nomination, double what a senator needs on Guam.

“I think it’s because there’s only one seat and he/she represents us far away,” said Pangelinan.

Pangelinan says packets have been slow to trickle into GEC, for all the positions in this year’s election, and they’re expecting an influx as they near the end-of-month deadline.

“We’re hoping that the candidates hurry up and file. You know, for every single candidate, we have to look at every single signature. So, I’m urging all the candidates to come, as soon as you can,” said Pangelinan.

The filing window for the primary election started May 11 and hopefuls have until 5 pm on Tuesday, June 30 to submit their packs.

The primary election is on Saturday, August 29 and the 2020 general election is scheduled for November 3.