Who is voting and why
The Journal has received many releases re surveys related to the election in Guam and endorsement (or not) of candidates.
What is important to voters?
According to the Pew Research Center — which released the results of a survey on Aug. 13, adult voters in the U.S. mainland are “highly engaged.” For those voters, the following issues are ranked in order of importance — the economy is top, followed by healthcare, Supreme Court appointments, COVID-19, violent crime, foreign policy, gun policy, race and ethnic inequality, immigration, economic inequality, climate change and finally — abortion.
The economy was the top issue stateside in June too. But if surveyed by leaning – the top issues for Trump supporters according to the Pew center is the economy and crime, and for Biden supporters — healthcare and the Coronavirus.
Do voters in Guam pay attention to issues and what potential candidates think of them as reported in surveys?
Prof. Ronald McNinch of the School of Business and Public Administration at the University of Guam, said, “Most of the time there is little direct connection between a survey and political behavior in Guam.”
What does work, McNinch said, is direct contact. “However, few organizations can mount this kind of effort,” he said.
Long term residents may remember that the primary campaign to elect the late former speaker and gubernatorial candidate, Antonio R. Unpingco, reached out in 2002 at the village level with door knocks. (Despite that, the Unpingco-Calvo team lost to Camacho-Moylan in the Republican primary that year.)
What else works in Guam?
Relationships, McNinch said.
The first being, “A voter feels that they know the candidate, directly or indirectly. Direct is a one degree personal or familial link. Indirect is connection at a second degree via family or friends. Media personalities also get this effect of connections,” he said.
Or, McNinch said, “A voter feels they know a candidate via some sort of name-raising linkage i.e. a former government official or known public personality.”
There are other ways candidates can get recognition, McNinch said.
“Older candidates can do as well as younger candidates if they use the same technologies, such as social media,” he said.
And then — of course — there is advertising. McNinch said that can work too.
By and large, candidates are sticking with the tried and true – roadside waves, advertising in all media, and signage with a photo. “Ads do help,” McNinch said. “In a nutshell, they show the candidate is organized and spending money.”
In the Congressional race, each of the three candidates has stayed on message.
Democrat Robert A. Underwood has released his detailed platform in a series of parts to media — and began campaigning by asking his rival to address the investigation into alleged misconduct by the House Ethics Subcommittee.
Michael F.Q. San Nicolas, Guam’s delegate to Congress — also a Democrat — has focused on accomplishments in D.C. to date.
As for the Republican candidate for Congress — Sen. William M. Castro, his office said — given the pandemic — the senator has had to be creative. Marie Cruz, administration and communications manager in Castro’s office said a “fleet of volunteers” has been taking to village roads in Castro’s “mini motorcades” wherever polls are open to encourage residents to vote, with the latest motorcade set for Dededo on Oct. 13.
Castro has also invited his Congressional challengers to an “in-person” debate.
Cruz said as of Oct. 13, there have been no takers, though San Nicolas only arrived back on-island on Oct. 11. Of the two potential debates in Swamp Road in Dededo and in Umatac, Cruz said the second will be scheduled. “It’s more than likely going to be the week before Nov. 3,” she said, although she said there may be “connectivity issues” when it comes to broadcasting. Cruz said all public safety protocols would be followed, so that the event would be outside. Castro is planning to attend, even if the other candidates did not. Cruz said, “The show must go on.”
NMTI may yet receive apprenticeship allocation, other learning options in the works
Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres told the Journal he is waiting on a “transition report” from the Northern Marianas Technical Institute, which has not reopened yet.
“NMTI is a trade [school]; it’s not like something that we can just take online courses and get a degree and expect to have the same performance as those with [‘hands-on’] classes,” said Torres. “I’ve always been a supporter of NMTI, but we’ll just wait until [we see] what their proposal is and then we’ll go from there,” he said at an Oct. 13 press conference.
NMTI is a nonprofit educational institution, chartered in 2008, that provides training in various trade industries, including construction; hotel and restaurant operations; automotive technology; and culinary arts. It would be another option for NMI residents to undergo apprenticeship training and receive certification.
According to Journal files, Ross S. Manglona, director of NMTI, previously said the construction program offered was the longest standing one, but interest had increased in the hospitality and culinary arts fields in recent years.
NMTI was previously funded by allocations from the local government, as well as partnerships with organizations such as the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, the CNMI Scholarship Office and donations from members of the business community.
As a nonprofit institution recognized by the National Center for Construction Education and Research, the facility could accommodate 300 students per academic year.
Gregorio “Kilili” Camacho Sablan, the NMI’s delegate to Congress, introduced the Outlying Areas Apprenticeship Expansion Act, which would allow for the National Apprenticeship Act to apply to the NMI and other insular areas. Funding would be approximately $2.8 million for five years.
The act would also make grants, cooperative agreements, contracts and other arrangements available to the NMI in the establishment of registered apprenticeships and expanded opportunities. If the bill is enacted into law, its effective date would be July 21, 2021 and authorize a fiscal 2021 appropriation of $1.8 million divided equally among the insular areas.
For the Northern Marianas College, $3.03 million of funding appropriations is in the NMI’s revised fiscal 2021 budget.
NMI continues tourism reopening prep work; considers All Souls observance
During an Oct. 13 press conference, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres of the Northern Mariana Islands said the NMI’s business community has made progress.
“I think at this point … we’re pretty much on [level] green. I believe every business has opened up already or at least have the opportunity to open up. We have worked with almost every business on the island.”
The NMI’s color grading system, also known as the community vulnerability level, determines its COVID-19 testing frequency, as well as directives regarding business and government facility operations, curfew, social gatherings and more.
The NMI was classified as level “blue” on Sept. 7 by the Torres-Palacios administration, but as of the press conference the governor had not changed the community vulnerability level to green.
Regarding the community vulnerability level, Esther Muna, CEO of the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp., said, “In a way, we are actually practicing some of the things that have been described or prescribed under level green. … Basically, it’s still the three W’s because as long as there [are] travelers which bring in the risk. We’ve noticed … our positive cases are from the [inbound] travelers.”
The three W’s from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are: ‘wear a mask; watch your distance; and wash your hands.’
Warren Villagomez, chairman of the COVID-19 task force, said observance of All Souls’ Day — a Roman Catholic holiday for visiting burial sites of deceased family members at cemeteries — is under discussion.
“Bishop Ryan [Jimenez] reached out — it’s an outdoor setting — we’re gonna work with them on control measures and see whether it would be feasible,” he said.
Torres also said the tourist sites, which have been undergoing various renovations, such as repainting of structures, will be finished within the “next couple of months” for the smaller project sites.
“Bird Island, for example, is going to take a little longer because there’s an actual bigger plan for that,” said Torres. “And [the] Grotto — there’s just revitalizing and fixing up the stairs and some other stuff.”
Muna said the COVID-19 vaccine may not be ready until next year. “From what we understood, it’s still not ready. It may not be ready until January. There’s information here and there; but … we cannot confirm that it’s gonna be here in November or December. It’s probably around next year,” she said. mbj