FRESH from Saturday’s election of party officers, Guam Democrats immediately hit the ground running, with its new leadership doubling their efforts to consolidate forces and revitalize the party that was weakened by internal conflict.
Sen. Rory Respicio, the newly elected chairman of the Guam Democratic Party, said the first executive decision is the appointment of Jon Calvo Jr. as executive director, replacing Carlo Branch, who stepped down earlier this year. “We are seeing a sincere merging between the different politician powerhouses, as evident with (Saturday’s) uncontested election,” Respicio said.
Party leaders said the unexpectedly high turnout at the election indicated the Democrats’ renewed interested in beefing up the political organization that has not seated a governor since 2002.
More than 1,000 Democrats showed up for Saturday's vote.
“In a previous islandwide party election when it was hotly contested, only 400 votes were cast. We had an uncontested election, and we tripled that number,” said Speaker Judith Won Pat, who chaired the nominating committee. “I am proud of what our party has accomplished. We came out and voted and showed the strength of the Democrats.”
Former Education Superintendent Nerissa B. Underwood is the new vice chairwoman; John Paul Manuel, secretary; and Coy Torres, treasurer.
“We are honored and blessed to be standing on the shoulders of our party's political giants and amassing the talents of our Central Executive Committee,” Respicio said.
Underwood is the wife of University of Guam President Robert Underwood, who ran against former Gov. Carl Gutierrez in the 2006 Democratic Party’s gubernatorial primary that split the party into two factions.
“Nerissa and I, together with every single party faithful, are working tirelessly to continue to strengthen our party,” Respicio said. “Several key events have recently taken place to continue the strength and unity of our party."
He said Gutierrez had called on Democrats “to begin the process of merging members of our party into one unstoppable force.”
Nerissa Underwood’s acceptance of the nomination saved the day for the party, Respicio said. “So now our party is alive and well. We are united.”
Return to Adelup
Next on the agenda, Respicio said, is increasing party membership engagement and maximizing participation in decision-making.
“I won't speak to any specific strategies per se; however, our elected and other party leaders, both past and present, are gathering together to put plans in place to ensure the Democratic Party of Guam will lead our people into the future,” he said.
Respicio said the party’s goal is to take Adelup back from the Republican Party by “involving the disaffected Republicans and Independents.”
Guam will hold a primary election in August next year and a general election on Nov. 4, 2014.
“Seriously, though, this kind of genuine energy and momentum is going to make up for the lost time," Respicio said. "And if we first focus on strengthening our party over the next six months, I am confident there will be the kind of structure and infrastructure to launch a strong gubernatorial team to take on the current administration.”