THE 2012 political season on Guam has officially begun with Sen. Frank Blas Jr.'s declaration this week of his candidacy for the congressional delegate position.
This, of course, was not totally unexpected as Blas had many times in the past given hints of his desire to run for Congress. Certainly he has the background for the job, having an impressive record of public service, from his Guam Homeland Security days to his current stint as a senator.
Blas also comes from a distinguished political family himself and I imagine he must have gotten some sage political advice from his father, who was a lieutenant governor of Guam and one of the most astute politicians the island has produced.
Moreover, Blas has done his homework well and is now a foremost expert on federal-territorial issues such as Compact Impact and the Guam war claims issue. He has also proven to be a thorn on incumbent Guam Delegate Madeleine Z. Bordallo's side, often criticizing Bordallo on many issues.
Still, some people were wondering whether he would indeed go through with his plan, given Bordallo's intimidating political record.
Of course, the last few years have not exactly been Madeleine's best years in office. Some have even dared to say Bordallo has been slipping a notch, especially on the Guam war claims and the Guam buildup issues. Because of this, Madeleine's vise-like grip on the delegate position has never been as vulnerable as it is now, and in Blas she faces a tougher opponent than in previous races.
But aside from his own sterling political record and growing network of supporters, Blas may also be counting on another heavyweight Democrat taking on Bordallo in the Democratic primary, something Madeleine never had to contend with before.
It will be recalled that last year, former Gov. Carl T.C. Gutierrez shocked everyone by hinting that he may run for the congressional delegate position. If that happens, Blas could benefit if these two titans of the Democratic Party destroy each other during the primary.
In a heated primary (and a Gutierrez-Bordallo fight is expected to be heated given the history between the two), supporters of the losing camp are not expected to throw their allegiance to the winner and this may be enough to tilt the odds in favor of Blas.
Of course, that's assuming Blas is the sole Republican nominee. Haven't there been rumors that former two-time Republican Gov. Felix Camacho also wants to run for congressional delegate?
But some analysts say if Blas is to win the delegate race, he would have to tweak his campaign strategy. During last Tuesday's launch of his campaign, Blas made a point of saying he was born on Guam. While he did not say outright that Bordallo wasn’t, the implication was there. And even if Blas may not have meant to imply this, some voters, especially those who weren't born on Guam, may feel alienated.
In addition, this “outsider” strategy would only give the Bordallo camp an opportunity to recount Madeleine’s dramatic past. I can already imagine political advertisements tracing Bordallo's rise and accomplishments throughout the years, to stress that she has been on Guam for a very long time and that she is as “local” as they come.
It is still early and Blas can still shift his campaign, not focusing on the past, which would just be playing into Madeleine's hands. Instead, Blas should focus more on the present, where Bordallo's recent stumbles have made her more open to attack.
Probably realizing this, Blas, during his address Wednesday night at the Rotary Club of Northern Guam meeting, stressed he was not attacking Bordallo's origins and that he was just pointing out that he was a local boy.
In all her congressional runs, Madeleine has never really faced a heavyweight political figure in both the primary and the general election. More often than not, she ran unopposed and many times, even the Republicans supported her.
But with a seasoned and highly regarded politician like Blas entering the fray, this November’s congressional race may be different. And this year being a non-gubernatorial election year, the congressional contest will definitely be the race to watch.