AG hopefuls oppose Bill 425 - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

AG hopefuls oppose Bill 425

by Mindy Aguon

Guam - With a bill that's been introduced that would do away with an elected attorney general, the Guam Election Commission is still accepting the filing of those wanting to run for the position.  And evidently, candidates for the island's chief legal officer position are opposed to the proposed legislation.

The GEC is closely monitoring the legislature's actions on Bill 425, introduced by Vice-Speaker B.J. Cruz, which would repeal current law and make the attorney general position appointed by the governor, no longer by the people.  GEC Executive Director John Blas says the Legislature's actions over the next few months could impact the upcoming elections, noting, "That would change the makeup of our ballots if those bills become law prior to us printing, then we would have to remove that.

"Now here's the problem: the worst-case scenario is if we've already printed our ballots because the attorney general's goes through the primary and if we were to print that up, and of course after the fact, that this becomes law that it will be an appointed position, we would need to continue that education that those votes, that race is not for voting."

Attorney general hopefuls including former U.S. Attorney for Guam and the CNMI Lenny Rapadas, who officially filed his candidacy at the Election Commission today, are opposed to Bill 425.  "My concern as a citizen is if one year we can change it one way, then two years or four years later if you don't like the attorney general, then you can change it again," he commented.  "That gives the perception that the law is arbitrary and the law is always changing to suit people's needs and I'm concerned that the perception of the law doesn't look as good."

The former assistant attorney general and former chief prosecutor says elections allow the people to decide who should set the legal policy of the government.

His opponent, Attorney Gary Gumataotao (who has yet to officially file his candidacy for the position), agrees as he believes Bill 424 would give the governor too much power.  He told KUAM News, "There's too many backdoor deals and too many midnight kinds of operations that can take place and all they got to do is call over and say, 'We appointed you, you owe us, you're one of us'. We don't want that. We don't want people that aren't going to be part of the team but will act independently, so we need a chief legal officers who's independent and stays independent otherwise there's too much power that stays in one group.  And to be a political appointee really means you owe somebody else and it's not the public."

Until lawmakers make a decision, Rapadas and Gumataotao and possibly others in the community will still campaign for the position, hoping to get the vote of approval from island residents.

The GEC meanwhile is also monitoring the legislature's actions on Bill 424, which would also do away with elections for Guam Education Policy Board members and make those appointed by the governor and approved by the Legislature.

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