Congressional candidates spar on issues - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Congressional candidates spar on issues

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by Mindy Aguon

Guam - There were some fireworks at Thursday night's Guam Medical Association congressional debate as Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo presented herself as the more experienced and seasoned candidate while Senator Frank Blas, Jr. said Guam can no longer afford to continue with the status quo. 

From the get-go, Bordallo came out swinging. "My opponent has riled up the momma bear in me," she stated. "I don't mind having a debate on the issues and differing opinions, but you aren't entitled to inventing your own facts."  She added, "My opponent says I failed to provide services to veterans. Senator, have you seen the new veterans clinic? You're just plain wrong. The momma bear is fired up and ready to go."

Blas, the Republican Minority Leader, didn't hesitate to answer back, retorting with, "Our people deserve to hear why when our congresswoman was given the opportunity to get war claims for recognition for our war survivors, she turned it down. Our people want to know what happened to the military buildup after the congresswoman said her in the 2011 congressional address that by signing the Programmatic Agreement, it cleared the way for the buildup to occur."

"Can we truly afford another congressional term of the status quo?"

And throughout the night, the two candidates sparred back and forth on issues such as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and Medicare.  Bordallo expressed her support for Obamacare, saying it is good for Guam; Blas said he doesn't agree the mandates being imposed are beneficial for island residents.

While both advocated for why they felt they were qualified to be Guam's representative in Washington, the sparks really started to fly when moderator Dr. Nathaniel Berg asked the candidates about the military buildup. Bordallo stated, "I've had quite a few obstacles from leaders here on Guam when it came to the military buildup now everybody is changing their minds and they're very supportive. I remember when the senators visited the Legislature and they said if the buildup would not occur, would Guam be disappointed. You made no comment. You were in the room. And then you also made another comment the feds should fund war claims and Compact impact first before funding anything for the military buildup. So you're the ranking position in the leadership and you did nothing to comment. These were some of the obstacles and that set us back tremendously."

"Yes ma'am, I was there. Where were you? Okay? This was an important meeting," responded Blas.  "I had a representative there.  I was in Washington," the incumbent volleyed.

She added, "I can't understand why you didn't speak up on behalf of the people," prompting Blas to reply with, "And if she was there, she would have heard that I did speak up. I did speak up." Bordallo strongly contested this point.

Blas reiterated, "Again, the question was posed do you really want this buildup on Guam? And so the question I asked to them what plans are you asking us as to whether or not we approve or not approve? As you yourself stated you are waiting for the Department of Defense to give you the plans you've been waiting for since 2006, what are you asking me to approve or not to approve."

On the issue of Compact impact funding, Bordallo touted her success in increasing Guam's share by millions of dollars each year while Blas questioned why she hadn't done more to hold the Department of the Interior accountable for submitting mandated reports to Congress each year. 

The issue of failed war reparations for Guam sparked some heated debate between the candidates on their differing opinions on whether Bordallo should have accepted a compromise proposed in 2009. "Now he seems to think that I have failed and I should not have taken the compromise or I should have taken the compromise. So again if I'm a failure does that mean all my predecessors were failures?" said Bordallo.

"None of them were failures," Blas said "You, in fact, were the one who had the opportunity. October 2009 it was you who had to make the decision."

He continued to press, saying, "Can I ask you, Madam Congresswoman, was Senator John McCain one of the individuals who gave you the compromise in October 2009? He was, wasn't he? Thought so."

Blas also began, "Congressman [Ben] Blaz came back and asked the people. Madam Congresswoman, you came back and told us you didn't take it. There was no discussions."

And while they didn't agree on a number of issues, the two did agree on two issues: opposing Prop 'A' and not supporting abortion.

Congresswoman Bordallo meanwhile admits she had what she calls a "Joe Biden moment at the debate", saying she did not intend to imply that local leaders were an obstacle to the buildup. Bordallo says local leaders did not harangue the visiting U.S. Senate delegation and she was trying to say that it is difficult to have a unified Guam approach when the Republican leader of the Legislature was silent when asked whether Guam would be disappointed if there wasn't a buildup.

You can watch the forum in its entirety starting tomorrow evening by way of multiple broadcasts on our schedule. The first will air on MCV Local 2 tomorrow night at seven o'clock (also webcast at http://kuam.com/live), then again on Sunday at 7pm on KUAM-TV8 with additional repeats next Tuesday and Thursday.

KUAM will also be taping next week's GMA senatorial forum, which will air next Saturday, October 27, at 7pm on MCV Local 2 and additional broadcasts starting next Sunday.

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