Guam – The 2 GOP Gubernatorial candidates squared off Wednesday night at the Hyatt in a debate sponsored by the Guam Medical Association.
Senators Eddie Calvo and Ray Tenorio faced off against Lt. Governor Mike Cruz and Senator Jim Espaldon. The 2 teams are vying for the GOP nomination in the race for Adelup against the unchallenged Democratic team of former Governor Carl Gutierrez and Senator Frank Aguon.
Debate moderator, K-57 Radio Host Patti Arroyo, challenged the candidates on a wide range of issues including the build-up, health care and same-sex marriage.
But the most controversial exchange came in response to Arroyo’s question on whether a tax should be imposed on sugary substances in light of the growing problem of obesity and its health consequences.
Calvo, who has touted his management of the island’s Pepsi franchise, said he was not in favor any new taxes. And he added “At Pepsi, we sell water and juices too.”
And Cruz turned the same question back on Calvo saying “To use the Pepsi model to run GovGuam is wrong.”
Then the Lt. Governor asked a couple of questions of his own directed at Calvo.
Pointing out Calvo’s abstention on a number of legislative votes, in particular the vote increasing taxes on cigarettes, Cruz asked “If you could not vote on those issues, how can you be expected to sign them into law?”
And later, Cruz asked: “Senator I would challenge you to call your father and family and stop the importation of tobacco.”
But Calvo shot back saying “We have a conflict of interest law.” Adding “My only conflict is that I am for the people and I have proven that as a Senator.”
But Arroyo began the questioning by focusing first on the military buildup, and both Senator Calvo and Lt. Governor Cruz affirmed their support for it.
On the issue of the troubled Guam Public School System, the Lt. Governor called the current School Board “a failure.” And said he supports the new bill that would allow the Governor to appoint 3 members to the 7 members Board.
Senator Calvo spoke about his “Classroom-to-Careers” initiative for public education which he said promises to help students find jobs after their education.
Both candidates spoke in support of the new law which allows for the creation of a Charter School.
On health issues, both men applauded the recent accreditation of the Guam Memorial Hospital.
Lt. Governor Cruz called it a “crowning achievement.” But he said the key to getting it done was appointing a qualified and independent board and leaving them alone to do what was needed to get that accreditation.
Senator Calvo said more needs to be done, and said he would establish a liaison to work with GMH and do more to recruit more doctors.
On the issue of same-sex civil unions, the Lt. Governor said he believes marriage is between a man and a woman. But he also said he supports civil rights and approves of his running mate Senator Espaldon’s bill supporting visitation rights for same sex couples.
But Cruz did not go as far as saying he supports Senator B.J. Cruz’s same sex civil union bill which was the object of Arroyo’s question. That bill was introduced earlier this year, but has yet to make it to the floor for debate.
On the same issue, Senator Calvo made it clear that he opposes same-sex civil unions saying the traditional family unit is the foundation of society.