Marianas Variety

Last updateSat, 17 Nov 2018 12am







    Saturday, November 17, 2018-11:27:16A.M.






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OPINION: How candidates win elections on Guam

HAGÅTÑA —  For many years, I have closely examined what it takes to get elected to public office on Guam. In the beginning, I had only examples from books, limited personal experience with campaigns, and a general citizen’s view of elections. But today, I am very different in my approach and views.

First, I have to say that I went to college in Newt Gingrich’s hometown and was active in the local and county politics in Carroll County, Georgia. I attended the Congress updates given by Newt nearly every month, and I learned a lot simply by paying attention at these meetings. Also, due to the influence of my friend Ed Henderson, I began attending Republican Party meetings on a regular basis.

At one “new candidate” meeting, Newt spoke about running for office. He stood up and said very bluntly, “If you want to get elected, you have to run.” There is a lot of wisdom and truth in that statement.

Studying elections

Second, in graduate school, I studied elections quite a bit. My favorite book, even today, on elections is “Winning Local and State Elections” by Ann Beaudry and Bob Schaeffer. What this book taught me is how real research and data can help candidates win elections. I use the basic technical tools from this book all the time in my current election work on Guam. Many years ago, I used this book in a special class on elections and Ray Tenorio, one of my students, was elected handily to office. The other practical politics book I use a lot is “Hardball” by Chris Matthews. Once in office, there is a practical side to staying in office.

Third, I also began studying public opinion in applied settings specifically for islands. Normally, public opinion works in a certain way in many U.S. locations. On Guam, public opinion is quite different. We are able to actually study how opinions change on our island. The opinion cycles are readily understood, and it is easy to see how and why opinions change over time. In general, candidate support levels can vary up to 20 percent in any three-day cycle. In a U.S. mainland location, we would never see this level of change. The key for Guam is face-to-face conversations and weekend talk before elections. These two basic factors can have immense effects.

Looking at herd effect

Finally, there is an important point about the herd effect for the Guam Legislature. Unlike many U.S. jurisdictions, we don’t have districts for legislative races. Because we are so small, election districts have always failed. We have tried legislative and school board districts, and they simply don’t work well. So we elect a gaggle of candidates for these offices. It is fairly easy to cull a given candidate from the herd if one knows how, but it is not because of a decision or choice a candidate has made. Generally, culling a candidate from the herd is a direct result of personal actions of the candidate.

The grand myth from the 2016 election was that pay raises affected election results. In general, pay raises never even showed up as a concern in the polls we did in the 2016 elections. What did matter was the cascade the weekend before the 2016 election related to education. This created the major cascade that then led to several incumbents being unseated. While there is a voodoo political view that it was pay, it was far from it. In general, the higher pay would have simply resulted in higher turnovers because the positions would have been more competitive due to the pay levels. That’s real politics.