Guam – The Republican Gubernatorial candidates took their gloves off Thursday night during the UOG Primary “Great Debate.”
In a series of bruising exchanges, the two rival teams for the GOP gubernatorial nomination hammered each each other over issues ranging from the military buildup to health care, education and crime.
Republican Senators Eddie Calvo and his running mate Senator Ray Tenorio are headed for a Saturday showdown with their GOP rivals Lt. Governor Mike Cruz and Senator Jim Espladon.
The primary winner will face off against the unchallenged Democratic Gubernatorial team of former Governor Carl Gutierrez and Senator Frank Aguon Jr.
In the debate, the candidates took their cues from open ended questions offered by the UOG students to launch attacks on each other.
When asked for his views on small business, Senator Calvo said of Cruz that “the Acting Governor wanted to raise the GRT [Gross Receipts Tax]. We are not going to raise taxes, we’re going to foster small business activities.”
Cruz fired back at Calvo saying “You need to get your hearing checked…We see small business as the pillar of our economy.”
On military relations Calvo said the “major difference is that we are going to to be partners, not subjects to the military” and then slipped in a shot at the Lt. Governor by saying it was the administration that Cruz is a part of that “made the recommendation for Pagat” as a firing range to the military. A charge made several times during the debate.
Later Cruz fired back saying “Pagat is not simply a plot of land, it represents our inalienable right to determine our future.” And he got in a shot of his own by accusing Calvo of exchanging “land next to the Orodt dump for Two Lovers Point land.”
“What are your views on health care?”
Calvo said he “appropriated $30-million dollars more than my opponents asked for in health care.” And he said he authored a bill for the Southern Health Care Center. “We’re going to get ‘care’ back in health care.” A line repeated on a number of occasions.
Cruz responded by accusing Calvo of being “the only Budget Committee Chairman to cut $6 million” from health care. Adding that the Camacho-Cruz administration “not only got GMH accredited, we built the Southern health Care Center.”
They were also asked for their views on strategic planning, and Calvo brought up the Federal Management team appointed to run the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse. “Mental Health was taken over … they don’t fix the buses … they don’t tell the business owners” about the impact of road construction. I don’t see planing,” said Calvo, “I see reactive planing.”
As for Guam’s political status, Lt. Governor Cruz called it “a complex issue, not easily resolved.” He said that he has proposed establishing a study group at UOG to look into the political status question and develop “a closer and fairer relationship with the U.S.” And he also proposed sending “a delegate to the U.S. Senate, just as Guam now has a delegate in the House.”
Calvo said “Any status is better than territorial status … the problem is that over the past 8 years when it came to the Commission on
Decolonization, not once did this administration set a meeting … they were absent at the post. What have they been doing for 8 years?”
The exchanges between the 2 Lt. Gubernatorial candidates were especially sharp.
When asked their views on education, Senator Ray Tenorio lit into the current administration saying “it was this administration that cut a million dollars from the University of Guam and $500-thousand from Guam Community College because they over estimated the budget for this fiscal year.”
Senator Jim Espaldon fired back saying “So far we have heard the other team talk about all the faults of this administration …. and yet they have offered no solution on how they’re going to be able to provide the funding.”
Tenorio also attacked the current Camacho/Cruz administration over the ambulance and bus crises saying “There are some days when only 2 ambulances are operating in our community because we haven’t been able to procure more ambulances or get those repaired. We have buses right now that have faulty breaks and this administration decided to put children on them.”
Espaldon at on point responded by saying “We have been hearing all night long ‘We’re going to do this, we’re going to do that.’ These are empty promises,” said Espaldon. “Lets get real.”
And referring to another Tenorio response, Espaldon said it sounded “more like a commercial than an answer to the question.”
When asked for their views on legislative relations, Tenorio accused the Camacho/Cruz administration of keeping the legislature in the dark on the military buildup and he too accused the current administration of “offering Pagat” to the military.
On the same question of legislative relations, Espladon fired back “Whose the man who went up and grabbed the gavel?,” referring to the incident in January of 2008 when Tenorio and Speaker Won Pat battled for the leadership role in the legislature.