JUST 18 days before the general election, the two opponents for the congressional seat went head-to-head at the Guam Medical Association’s congressional debate last night at the Hyatt Regency Guam.
The congressional candidates were asked questions on a wide variety of topics such as healthcare reform, the military realignment, war reparations, visa waiver programs, abortion, and the upcoming presidential election. Each opponent was given 90 seconds to state their position and 60 seconds for rebuttal.
Incumbent Guam Delegate Madeleine Z. Bordallo stuck by her years of experience while Sen. Frank Blas Jr. said Bordallo didn’t fulfill promises made during her campaign in previous years.
Bordallo took the stance of a “mama bear” ready to protect her island: “I’m here to set the record straight. You’ve riled up the mama bear in me. You aren’t allowed to go around inventing your own facts,” Bordallo said in her opening remarks.
For his part, Blas led by stating a new form of leadership is needed by the island. “This election, voters must choose between the status quo and bold new leadership to move Guam’s agenda,” he said.
The debate started out with questions about the healthcare reform law (Obamacare) and how to keep healthcare tax dollars within the United States and Guam, as well as the standards for physicians’ licensure.
Bordallo was in support of Obamacare, while Blas was against it. But both agreed on keeping healthcare tax dollars on Guam instead of going to health facilities off-island, such as the Philippines. Both also agreed that licensure standards, which may be lowered as more specialists are needed to run the new hospital, should not be relaxed or compromised.
The debate got heated when the topic of the military realignment and war reparations arose.
Bordallo said the delay in the buildup was caused by opposition from local leaders and she criticized Blas for not voicing his opinions early on.
“I remember when the U.S. senators visited the Legislature and asked if the buildup would not occur, would Guam be disappointed. You made no comment. You were in the room,” Bordallo stated.
“Yes, I was there, madam. But where were you?” Blas replied. “I did speak up. The question that was posed was ‘Do you really want this buildup on Guam? What plans are you asking us on whether or not we approve or not approve?’ The questions were premature.”
The senator also argued that Bordallo had not pushed for the Guam buildup master plan as was promised in 2006.
Both candidates became emotional when the topic of war reparations came up. Bordallo took the position that the issue could not have been compromised when one was offered in 2009. The compromise would have cut the biggest group from the war reclamation from the legislation. She pointed out that no previous congressional representative had pushed the war reparations as far as she did.
“My opponent has called me a failure in this area. But the House had passed Guam war reparations five times. It’s the Senate that’s the problem. I did exactly what former Congressman Ben Blas did in 1990. And in 2009, you agreed with me, according to media, not to accept compromise,” Bordallo told her rival.
In his rebuttal, Blas stated: “It was you who had the opportunity in October 2009. You came to us after you made your decision.”
He further argued that all former representatives had laid down the foundation, but Bordallo had let it slip away.
The tension carried over into the following question about visa waivers.
Blas again said Bordallo failed to fulfill her promise: the Philippine Visa Waiver which she had promised constituents in 2002.
The impact of migrants from the Freely Associated States on the Department of Corrections came out as an issue as well.
Bordallo said she is already working with the Department of Interior but Blas pointed to the many failings of DOI in releasing reports that were supposed to have been released annually.
When asked, both stated they are against abortion and Prop A – the For-Profit Bingo Initiative – and they both agree Guam’s law enforcement is up to par to handle an influx of military personnel.
As expected, Bordallo, a Democrat, supports Obama as a man of the people in the presidential campaign, while Republican Blas supports Romney’s plan to grow the economy.
After the debate, the two opponents shook hands and embraced. The debate will be shown on television at a later date.
Next week, GMA will be holding a debate for all senatorial candidates.