San Nicolas wins hotly contested congressional runoff

Guam Delegate to Congress Michael San Nicolas (file photo)

Incumbent Guam Delegate Michael San Nicolas has won his runoff election against fellow Democrat Dr. Robert Underwood in the most fiercely competitive contest of this election cycle.

With 67 out of 67 precincts counted, San Nicolas had 10,326 votes to Underwood’s 6,996 votes for a difference of 3,330.

San Nicolas had 59.61 % of the total votes while Underwood had about 40.39 percent of the votes.

At about 11 p.m., with only about 20 of 67 precincts reporting, Underwood called a news conference via Zoom already announcing his concession. San Nicolas was leading by 673 votes at the time with 5,260 ballots cast when Underwood made his concession speech.

“It is pretty obvious that Delegate San Nicolas will prevail in this election. So first of all, I want to congratulate San Nicolas for his victory and I wish him well on all future endeavors,” Underwood said.

He added: “I want to also express my personal gratitude to the thousands of supporters and voters who came out during the course of this campaign. I want to thank them for their energy and for their good wishes and I hope that the disappointment of this evening will not stay with them but great memories of being involved in this endeavor will.”

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In a statement reacting to Underwood’s concession, San Nicolas gracefully said: “We await final results but extend the utmost respect to Dr. Underwood, his wife Dr. Nerissa, and the Underwood campaign as we await official outcomes.”

The congressional race had to go through three elections: the first was the primary which was canceled because of the pandemic; the general election, which failed to have a 50%+1 winner; and now the runoff.

The general election only had a 52% turnout, a historically low participation rate for the island. Guam has more than 55,800 registered voters.

The runoff had an even lower voter turnout with only a 31.6 percent voter turnout and 17,355 total ballots cast.

However, the general election had a 45-day window to vote while the runoff had a window of only about one week.

Despite the limited time period, GEC commissioners were expecting at least a turnout of 40 to 45 percent.

But as the voting day progressed, few people could be seen voting. Pangelinan said it’s most likely that the turnout would only be about 30 percent.

During the general election, San Nicolas topped the Guam delegate race with 13,000 votes followed by Underwood at 9,300 votes and Republican Wil Castro at 5,942.

Sen. Wil Castro would go on to declare in public that he would be voting for Underwood.

San Nicolas is now entering his second term as Guam Delegate after a first term marked by both accomplishments and controversy.

But with his victory in the runoff, San Nicolas has proven his political strength. With limited traditional advertising and relying mostly on social media, San Nicolas had two decisive victories over his opponent.

As for Dr. Underwood, the former congressman and UOG president said he will continue to engage in public service, which he has done most of his life.

“My personal commitment to public service and the pursuit of fairness and justice will continue,” Underwood said in his concession speech.

Democratic Party 

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party of Guam released a statement Wednesday morning congratulating San Nicolas, thanking Underwood for stepping up to serve the island, and also thanking voters who exercised their sacred right to vote in the runoff election.

They also put out a call to all incoming candidates-elects, both Democrats and Republicans, to set ‘differences aside and work together for the sake of our Island.

“With the recent victory of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, the path forward looks more promising for Guam; but it also takes all of us striving for a common goal: which should be combatting COVID-19, and returning our Island to our more prosperous days. Our People have demonstrated that we are resilient – but as our island’s history has taught us, we can only overcome this, if we do it TOGETHER!”