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GEC wants election challenge dismissed

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by Lannie Walker

Guam - The first faceoff in the election challenge was short-lived, lasting just a little over five minutes. Less than an hour after this morning's hearing, the Guam Election Commission filed a motion to dismiss the election challenge filed in the District Court by the Democratic gubernatorial team of former governor Carl Gutierrez and Senator Frank Aguon, Jr.

GEC legal counsel Cesar Cabot argues the dismissal is warranted because the plaintiffs failed to state a claim. Additionally he argues that the claims are without merit and that Gutierrez and Aguon cannot sue on behalf of 1,000 John and Jane Doe citizen plaintiffs. 

The motion to dismiss was filed less than an hour after a hearing was held in the Superior Court this morning where Judge Vern Perez recused himself from a similar election challenge filed in the local court.

Perez told those present in the courtroom that he recused himself because of ties his relatives have with the Calvo-Tenorio team. His recusal also comes after Gutierrez-Aguon attorney David Lujan on Tuesday filed a statement of objection, questioning the judge's impartiality and competency

The case meanwhile automatically moves to the federal court. Attorney Cabot Tuesday filed a motion to remove the case from the Superior Court because it was almost identical to the one the Gutierrez-Aguon team filed in federal court.

Attorney Mike Phillips, representing the Republican team of Eddie Calvo and Ray Tenorio, said, "It was a surprise, the Election Commission pulling that at the last minute; it was interesting. They're entitled really to do whatever they want to do. I think they have to answer for it. It's strange at the very least."

Cabot says the removal was necessary since the two lawsuits are similar and because Gutierrez and Aguon have made federal claims.  "It didn't make any sense to have two separate litigations and two separate forums, so by filing that removal action it effectively transferred all of the cases and consolidated all of the case to federal court, District Court," he added.

After the November General Election and the certification of Calvo-Tenorio as winners of the gubernatorial race, the Gutierrez-Aguon team filed suit claiming election fraud and abuse. They are also now questioning whether four election Commission board members were improperly appointed or reappointed by Governor Felix Camacho to serve.

Senator Aguon noted, "If that's the case and it's proven that their term has expired, then they have to go back and reconsider some of the decisions that they had previously made regarding this election."

So far no hearing has been scheduled in federal court, District Court Chief Judge Frances Tydingco Gatewood has recused herself from both cases because her brother, Dan, is the co-chairperson of the Calvo-Tenorio Transition Team. Chief Judge Tydingco-gatewood issued another recusal order on tuesday afternoon indicating that she would refer the case to the 9th Circuit Court of appeals for designation.

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