Monday, September 10, 2012

A view of Guam's Primary Election

Recently, I read a column in the Pacific Daily News by former PDN-executive Lee Webber.  He gave his analysis of the results of the Primary Election and used it as a platform to regurgitate his narrative about the "Fab Five" and their supposed stances as "anti-military" legislators.  He juxtaposed the "Fab Five" with the evidently pro-military Senator Thomas C. Ada and former Senator (and Lieutenant Gubernatorial Candidate) Frank B. Aguon, Jr.  As Mr. Webber pointed out, Tom Ada is a former military officer and Frank Aguon is a current officer in the National Guard.  Frankly (no pun intended), these two have historically ranked highly in both the primary and general elections, so the fact that they are high in the primary and Senators Won Pat, Cruz, Respicio, Pangelinan and Guthertz did not rank as well tells us very little about the mind of the average democratic voter.  If anything, my own casual analysis seems to indicate that sticking by principles on the build-up (whatever they happen to be) is a better indicator of relative success as a candidate in this primary election.  Even if we use the 2011 bond proposal as a landmark piece of legislation to weigh this election, it seems that sticking up for principles is a better indicator than the position on the bond.  Maybe the public is trying to tell us something different from what Mr. Webber sees in the tea leaves... the people want to see principled leadership in the legislature.

Apparently Lee Webber has given Madeleine Bordallo an endorsement.  He's all for partisan unity and applauds Karlo Dizon for throwing his weight behind her (or so it seems).  I haven't spoken to Karlo, so I don't know any different from what was splashed on the front page on September 5th's Marianas Variety.

Mr. Webber has a very strange interpretation of Governor Carl Gutierrez getting around 1/3rd of the votes for the primary for Public Auditor against incumbent Doris Flores Brooks (the non-partisan(?) Republican running mate of Tommy Tanaka in 1994).  He says, "They clearly like and/or trust Doris Flores Brooks far more than they do Gutierrez, given the nearly 3-1 vote spread [sic] cast for Doris as opposed to Carl."  Here's what is missing: Carl Gutierrez was a write-in candidate.  People had to do more than check a box for Carl, they had to check a box, then write in a clear identifier which could be counted by the Guam Election Commission.  Okay, that doesn't sound like much of an obstacle?  On the contrary, it's a basic finding of psychology that even when people have a choice, when there are default options, they are far more likely to go for a default option.  It's about choice architecture (nudge, anybody?).  I won't pretend to know the actual level of support for each candidate, but Doris had an advantage.  And Carl didn't get into the race until rather late, so there wasn't much time for the signs to get out and possible ads to be run.

I'm not sure where Lee Webber got the idea that you can look at the vote totals for a write-in in a non-partisan race and another candidate for a different office to gauge their level of support... specifically Carl Gutierrez and Frank Aguon.  I like Frank a lot, but I wouldn't ever give direct comparisons of their performance in this primary.  If Gutierrez were running for Senator (and his name was printed on the ballot, not a write-in), that would be a more fair comparison.  Don't compare coconuts and pineapples (but go ahead and mix them with some liquor).

I've been living under a rock, so I was very surprised by how well Mike San Nicolas, Joe San Agustin and Leah Beth Naholowaa did.  This is the second time I'm aware of that Joe San Agustin has run for Senator and, based on historical standards, I though he'd come in a bit lower.  I feel that Leah Beth did well, too, since she is a tad below incumbent Senator Guthertz (and this on her first run for Senator).  I think Leah Beth has great potential.  She has done something rare by running on a real platform that is focused, in a practical way, on helping the people of Guam to achieve their dreams.  Mike San Nicolas did way better than I had imagined, with three incumbents placing below him.

Tommy Morrison, Mike Limtiaco and Tony Ada did well.  Chris Duenas also improved quite a bit.  I personally like Aline Yamashita and I think her potential is not accurately reflected in her standing in the primary because she is a moderate, with plenty of cross-over support from Democrats.  I know Roland Blas and Adonis Mendiola and I personally like both of them.  Both are very personable and I know both have been involved in politics for quite a while.  I recall that Roland worked for Speaker Forbes and Speaker Won Pat and that Adonis was involved with UA (2006) and CT (2010).

I know Jonathan Diaz.  Clearly he was overzealous in his denunciation of Madeleine Bordallo.  On the other hand, what Mr. Webber does with his "analysis" is pretty much mean and misleading, in my opinion.  Okay, the only independent candidate (for any office) got 86 votes.  To me that isn't an indictment of him as a candidate, entirely.  A lot of it is the basic problem with primaries like we have when independent or third-party candidates want to run for political office.  It's very hard because if you vote for the one independent, then you can't vote for anyone else in the primary.  In other words, support for that one candidate has to overwhelm voters' desire to indicate their support for every other candidate for every other partisan office.

On the whole, I found Mr. Webber's column supremely annoying and very little in it is worth reading.  Mr. Webber has just stretched the facts to fit his story.

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