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Are independents in our political future?

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Will the political parties kill Sen. Fernando Esteves' Bill 377 - which would allow candidates to run as Independents in a third column on the election ballot? According to Guam Election Commission Executive Director Maria Pangelinan, an Independent candidate has never run in any Guam election. That's probably because the law favors Democrats and Republicans - and they know it.

"The way the law is written today? Yes," GOP Chair Jerry Crisostomo said when we asked him if the law hinders Independents. "But I think Fernando's bill kind of removes that barrier and makes it more accessible to run as an independent."

While Crisostomo says Esteves' bill would add more diversity to elections and may help boost ailing voter turnout, he said the bill would make it tougher for the two parties because it would make elections more competitive.

"As a chair of a political party - an organized political party - I won't necessarily agree with that," Crisostomo said of Bill 377. "I mean, I'm already competing with the Democrats."

And what do the Democrats think of making it easier for independents to run? Well, we don't know. Democratic Party Chair Senator Regine Biscoe Lee declined to comment on this story, saying it would be "premature" to comment on the bill before the party reviews it.

But one Democrat elected to the 35th Guam Legislature says if Bill 377 was already law, he would've done things differently.

"I likely would have run as an independent," Senator-elect Clynt Ridgell tells KUAM News. "It's something I was really looking at."

But Ridgell and Esteves agree the law - which requires independents to garner a percentage of total votes cast to move on to the General Election ballot, means running as an independent is a lost cause.

"It was made to be impossible," Esteves said.

"It just wasn't feasible -it would've been nearly impossible to win," Ridgell said.

Low voter turnout may mean voters are turned off by the options - or optics of how the political parties conduct their business as usual on Guam.

"I don't think everyone on Guam is either a Democrat or Republican - you have people that are not, so they should be represented," Esteves said.

"There are a lot of people out there who are tired of petty party politics - sort of this fighting between the factions," Ridgell said.

Ironically, for Bill 377 to succeed, it would require the support of both Democrats and Republicans.

While Esteves says his bill won't see the session floor this year, he hopes the 35th Legislature will move it along. He admits the bill faces an uphill battle, but he believes voters deserve better options.

"The more ideas, the better," Esteves said.

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