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GEC wants election challenge in federal court

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by Mindy Aguon

Guam - The Guam Election Commission has asked that an election challenge filed by the Democratic gubernatorial team of Carl Gutierrez and Frank Aguon, Jr. be consolidated and heard in the District Court of Guam. GEC legal counsel Cesar Cabot filed a notice of removal of the challenge filed in the Superior Court of Guam today. 

Cabot indicated that the notice is meant to fulfill the Commission's statutory obligation to safeguard the integrity of the election process and to defend the certified results of the 2010 gubernatorial election. Because the two cases filed in the Superior and District Courts are nearly identical, the GEC legal counsel believes there's no reason to have them heard separately. 

He's asked that the District Court grant the removal of the case. Meanwhile, Superior Court Judge Vern Perez is still scheduled to conduct a special session on Wednesday morning in the case Gutierrez and Aguon filed in the local court.

Meanwhile Attorney David Lujan, who represents Gutierrez and Aguon, filed a statement of objection to the competency of Judge Perez.  According to court documents, Lujan contends the judge must recuse himself from presiding over the case because his impartiality may reasonably be questioned.  Lujan points out that Perez was appointed by Governor Felix Camacho, who publicly endorsed and campaigned for Calvo-Tenorio.  He additionally argued that Perez is related to various individuals who are related to Governor Felix Camacho and others who publicly endorsed and campaigned for the Republican gubernatorial team.

Lujan contends Judge Perez's recusal is further warranted because the plaintiffs allege that four of the Guam Election Commission board members were improperly appointed or reappointed by Governor Camacho to act as a commissioner.  The attorney wrote, "The terms of the 'commissioners' in question remained expired at the time of the initial declaration of results on November 3, 2010 and the subsequent declaration of results on November 6, 2010, and at the time of the issuance of the certificates of election on or about November 9, 2010." 

Lujan alleges that commissioners and defendants to the lawsuits filed by his clients, Republican members Martha Ruth, Joe Mesa, and Chairperson John Taitano and Independent board member Robert Cruz were not properly appointed or re-appointed by the governor. GEC Legal Counsel Cesar Cabot told KUAM News there is an acting holdover capacity provision in Guam law that allows GEC board members to serve 90 calendar days plus 3 legislative days beyond their terms' expiration. 

Additionally, Cabot notes that the certification of the election results was a unanimous decision by all of the board members.

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