Guam Democrats Announce New Legislature Leadership

Benjamin Cruz succeeds long-serving Judith Won Pat as speaker

By Shawn Raymundo

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Dec. 26, 2016) – Benjamin Cruz has been named by his Democratic colleagues as the new speaker of the Legislature, succeeding Judith Won Pat, who held the seat for five consecutive terms.

Breaking from their three-week long caucus, the Democratic majority met with media inside the Legislature’s soon-to-be former public hearing room Monday, to announce which senators-elect have been appointed to leadership positions. Two of the key leadership positions will go to freshman lawmakers.

“But we just thought we should have the media and the public aware that there is white smoke and we have our leadership,” Cruz said. White smoke rises from the Sistine Chapel when a new pope is selected.

First-time senator-elect Therese Terlaje will succeed Cruz as the vice speaker, while Regine Biscoe Lee, who also won her first election this fall, takes on the role of legislative secretary.

Incumbent Sen. Frank Aguon Jr., the top vote-getter in the year’s election, has been appointed to the role of majority leader. Aguon has said he plans to run for governor in two years. The position of assistant majority leader went to senator-elect Joe S. San Agustin.

And senator-elect Telena Nelson will join the ranks as majority whip, or the Democratic party’s enforcer, in charge of whipping up votes and keeping the party in line.

Soon-to-be Speaker Cruz, come Jan. 2, when the senators-elect are sworn in to office, will continue to chair the Office of Finance and Budget, overseeing the annual fiscal budget.

Incumbent Sen. Mike San Nicolas will chair the Legislature’s Committee on Rules, which is tasked with referring bills to the appropriate oversight committee.

Cruz on Monday said the rest of the committee chairmanships will be announced Tuesday, as well as other details, including who will have an office inside the newly renovated Guam Congress Building in Hagåtña.

Out of the five senatorial office spaces in the renovated Guam Congress, one is designated for the speaker’s office.

“I know I’ll have (a space),” Cruz said.

When asked why the length of this pre-term caucus took about three weeks, Cruz said he didn’t have a comment, other than to say that they “were discussing it.”

Terlaje said, “It’s been a great process, and we’re looking forward to serving the people of Guam during the 34th Guam Legislature.” She is no stranger to the legislative process, having worked as legislative legal counsel.

The Republican minority announced its new leadership this past Friday, when incumbent Sen. James Espaldon was named as the new minority leader.

The inauguration ceremony for the upcoming Legislature is scheduled for Jan. 2.

Pacific Daily News
Copyright © 2016 Guam Pacific Daily News. All Rights Reserved

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