Sen. Torres: let’s reverse this lowest point in public trust

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Incoming 35th Legislature's Minority Leadership, L-R: Sen. Wil Castro (R), Minority Leader; Sen. Louise Borja Muna (R), Assistant Minority Leader; Senator-elect Telo Taitague, Minority Whip; and Senator-elect James Camacho Moylan, Assistant Minority Whip. Far right: Sen. Mary Camacho Torres (R).

Guam – The general election’s top Republican senatorial vote getter and fifth highest voter earner over all in the race for the 35th Guam Legislature is calling for public service over party patronage.

Sen. Mary Camacho Torres (R), told Pacific News Center early Monday morning that she’s on a mission to reverse negative public perceptions about the legislature.

“I’m concerned that Guam’s legislative branch is at its lowest point in public confidence and trust and I want to help reverse it,” she said. “Much has to do with the strained relationship it’s experienced with the Executive Branch the past few years.

“Coming into the new year, building a healthy and collaborative dialogue with the executive branch must be a priority for the legislature. People are tired of dirty politics and they desire leaders who work together for the common good. Allegiance is a noble concept but not when it translates into special interest laws.”

Background

On Dec. 5, the Republican Party of Guam and the Republican Senatorial Caucus were “pleased to announce” the minority leadership for the incoming 35th Legislature. The Grand Old Party declared that Sen. Wil Castro (R) would be its minority leader, Sen. Louise Borja Muna (R) would be Assistant Minority Leader, that Senators-elect Telo Taitague and Jim Moylan would serve at Minority Whip and Assistant Minority Whip, respectively, and that Sen. Mary C. Torres (R) would serve as “Minority member.”

That black-and-white announcement prompted Torres to tell PNC news that she found the GOP’s written designation in a widely disseminated news release to be “condescending, demeaning, degrading, and insulting” and that she would have preferred that the party and the caucus had simply left her name off the list.

Torres said she had participated in the Republican leadership caucus via Skype, during which she bid for the Minority Leader’s post.

“I was interested and presented my case for why I would be good in the role. Two others wanted the title, as well,” Torres said.

Placement and Politics

Castro assumed leadership of the Minority despite finishing the general election’s legislative race twelfth overall and fourth among the only five Republicans to make the cut. Moylan finished second among Republicans and eighth overall. Muna placed third among Republicans and ninth overall. Taitague finished fifth among a total of five Republican senatorial winners and 14th overall.

Despite his relative low showing among all candidates and among fellow Republicans, Castro makes no apology for being selected among peers. “Every member had equal opportunity to vie and vote for a leadership position in the caucus,” Castro told PNC on Monday morning.

“I look forward to working with everyone in the legislature and at Adelup in order that we may improve the lives of the people of Guam,” he said.

When asked whether any of the lower three positions were offered to her, Torres said, “Not offered. But I also did not express interest. Please know that I fully accept not being selected minority leader.” When Torres  realized she didn’t have the support of her elected and reelected colleagues, she said she voted for all four of them for unity’s sake.

Last week Republican Party brass was towing the company line.

“In regard to the minority leadership in the 35th Guam Legislature, I think the selection was fair and accurate. It was done in a caucus and put up for a vote,” GOP Immediate Past Chairman Victor Cruz announced on Dec. 6.

“Minority Leader Senator Wil Castro, who actually has deep Democratic roots, chose our party and has been a fiercely loyal Republican, espousing our party’s philosophy and tenets and supporting our titular head and this administration. His allegiance has never been in question [;] Senator Castro has earned his leadership position. My fellow executive committee members and I look forward to supporting all Republicans in the years going forth.”

Hinge and History

But that fierce loyalty to a single retiring Republican administration is precisely what Torres has called into question. Torres is the daughter of Republican Party co-founder and the first appointed and first elected governor of Guam, Carlos Garcia Camacho. She is also the sister of former two-term Guam Governor Felix Perez Camacho. The Camacho family represents an influential branch of the local GOP with fierce supporters who have for years affiliated with and enjoyed well-timed mutual support among Sunshine Democrats led by former two-term Democratic Governor Carl T.C. Gutierrez.

Torres is no favorite of the Calvo Administration, having lost her job as Port of Guam general manager early into Republican Governor Eddie Calvo’s first term, after she refused to go along with the termination of the Port Seven, a group of employees she believes were fired for political reasons having nothing to do with merit. She also publicly opposed Calvo’s TRAN bond borrowing plan, debt she deemed far too expensive, given the island’s already considerable debt load.

Silent Majority?

Even with her controversial public stances against the administration, there are still whispers that Torres continues to enjoy popular support, even among Republican insiders. Last week, a hint of higher level support may have slipped out when Republican Party Chairman Jerry Crisostomo announced that he would have preferred Torres as Minority Leader.

Crisostomo, who also serves as NetCare Health Plan Administrator for Moylan’s Insurance company’s medical assurance division, appeared to quickly snap back in line, being quoted in a public apology sent to island media by staunch Calvo Administration advocate and Republican Party Vice-Chair Kate Baltazar.

“I issue this apology, as my statements in an interview yesterday may have been taken out of context and misconstrued,” Crisostomo said.

“I have full confidence in the Republican leadership that will be in place in the 35th Guam Legislature. The selection was fair and accurate. It was done in a caucus and put up for a vote. Minority Leader Senator Wil Castro, who I have the utmost respect and confidence in and [who] has been a fiercely loyal Republican, earned the majority of votes from his colleagues and therefore earned his leadership position. I believe Senator Castro to be an exceptional leader and he along with Senators Louise Borja-Muna, Mary Torres, Telo Taitague and James Moylan will represent the Republican party well and serve the island honorably”, Crisostomo said.

The Moylan family, too, is deeply rooted in the Republican Party. Patriarch Kurt Moylan served as Gov. Carlos Camacho’s lieutenant governor, and Kurt’s son, Kaleo, served as Gov. Felix Camacho’s first-term lieutenant governor. Kaleo ran against Camacho in the next primary election after the two had a falling out, but lost to Camacho in the 2006 primary.

Higher Priorities?

Whatever the prerogatives of the incoming Minority Leadership of the 35th Guam Legislature, come the first day of session in January, top vote-earner Torres  says she’s ready to perform the people’s business.

“Leadership is action, not a title,” Torres told PNC. “The electorate calls upon elected officials to be thoughtful, competent and productive in the best interest of Guam as a whole.

“We have serious social and economic problems plaguing Guam. I want to continue my work on policy that impacts broad sectors of our community and removes barriers to healthcare, gainful employment and basic government services.

“I believe our legislature can and will redeem its stature and respect as a co-equal branch of government. But it will take the leadership of all Senators to balance the vision of the newly elected Governor and the restorative justice programs of the Judiciary.

“President George W. Bush, a humble man himself, summed it up best with this message: ‘Use power to help people. For we are given power not to advance our own purposes nor to make a great show in the world, nor a name. There is but one just use of power and it is to serve people.’

“I look forward to affecting a refreshed legislative body,” Torres said.