Four Democrats and one Republican went head-to-head during the long and bitter 2018 campaign that ended with Guam's first female governor and left both political parties wounded when it was over.
The primary election was followed by a contentious recount that led to a credible write-in campaign during the general election.
The election season also was marred by anonymous YouTube attack ads, wild allegations of corruption never proved and a gun-grabbing incident that, arguably, doomed one campaign to defeat.
The 2018 gubernatorial election actually began in 2017 when Bank of Guam President Lou Leon Guerrero and her running mate, auto dealership executive Joshua Tenorio, officially launched their bid on Oct. 4.
Sen. Frank Aguon Jr. and his running mate, former U.S. Attorney Alicia Limtiaco, made it official a few weeks later.
After months of rumors, former two-term Gov. Carl Gutierrez declared on Jan. 16. He chose former Police Chief Fred Bordallo to be his running mate.
By the end of January, Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio and his running mate, former Sen. Tony Ada, threw their hats into the ring as the only Republican candidates.
The Rodriguez-Cruz team faced the toughest road. They lacked funds and experience compared with their competitors. But the four-term senator and his running mate presented a more comprehensive platform of their policies than any other team in the race.
They issued a 58-page plan of action in June. It detailed their plans for reducing the size of government, taxing banks on gross receipts, promoting solar power and establishing an "integrated resort development zone" that would include casino gambling to boost tourism.
But their platform was overshadowed by a campaign drama which often eclipsed the issues.
Cruz, who was a Junior ROTC instructor at John F. Kennedy High School, was the subject of a complaint filed by former Sen. Robert Klitzkie.
Klitzkie petitioned the Guam Department of Education to stop paying Cruz, saying it was illegal for Cruz to continue on the government payroll while campaigning for political office.
Cruz was given an ultimatum from GDOE to either abandon the campaign or quit his job. Cruz was fired by GDOE on June 22 and stuck with Rodriguez.
Primary voters delivered their verdict on Aug. 26. Of the four Democratic teams running, the Rodriguez-Cruz team finished last with 3,761 votes.
No one had more political experience in the gubernatorial race than Gutierrez, and he didn’t tire of reminding his rivals of that fact.
During a July 25 forum at the Hilton Guam Resort & Spa, he declared he was "the best equipped to extricate us from this financial mess that we're facing right now.” Referring to the other candidates, he said they "can give you ideas of what they want to do, but I've done it."
Gutierrez’s choice of Bordallo seemed like the right move in the midst of a methamphetamine epidemic that has been blamed for the increase in crimes.
There were no gaffs – but then again, there was no drama in this campaign. As with Rodriguez, a lack of funds hurt.
The Gutierrez-Bordallo camp finished third in the Democratic primary with 5,609 votes.
Aguon has campaigned for governor before.
He ran for lieutenant governor in 2006 with former UOG President Robert Underwood. He ran again for lieutenant governor with Carl Gutierrez in 2010.
He was the top vote-getter among the senatorial candidates in the 2014 election when he returned to the Legislature, where he has served seven terms.
His choice of Alicia Limtiaco, former U.S. Attorney for Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, was seen as a shrewd counterbalance to his principal rival, Leon Guerrero.
Although funding was an issue for his campaign as well, Aguon used his position in the legislature to hammer away on the issues. He consistently opposed tax increases, and he sponsored a bill giving the governor authority to consolidate government agencies as a way out of the financial crunch.
However, his declaration at the One Guam forum in May that he is “one vote for independence,” raised questions.
When asked for clarification, he told The Guam Daily Post, “A single vote will not determine the future political status of our island.” He said he would “follow the mandate of the law and the chosen status of our people.”
However, what hurt most was a barrage of anonymous attack ads that began to flood social media in July and August ahead of the primary.
Aguon-Limtiaco fell short in the Democratic primary, placing a close second to the winners: the Leon Guerrero-Tenorio team. The 2 percent difference appeared to fall within the margin requiring a recount.
At first, the Guam Election Commission said no recount was necessary. Challenged, the commission backed down and called for a recount, but the result still left Aguon-Limtiaco 254 votes short.
But it wasn’t over.
On Sept. 3, Andri Baynum, of Guamanians for Fair Government, and Ken Leon-Guerrero, of Guam Citizens for Public Accountability, announced the launch of a write-in campaign in support of Aguon-Limtiaco.
Then on Oct. 13, the Aguon-Limtiaco team formally rejoined the race as a write-in team. Aguon accused his Democratic rival of funding the attack ads against him. When she denied it, he called her a liar.
There were 8,205 gubernatorial write-in votes cast, more than ever before, but they still fell short of victory.
It looked promising at the start of the campaign for Ray Tenorio and Ada.
As the sole Republican team in the race, Ray Tenorio was assured of victory in the primary and could stand on the sidelines as the four Democratic teams battled it out.
With the backing of Gov. Eddie Calvo, plenty of funding and the political connections built up during eight years in office, the Tenorio-Ada team seemed to be among the top contenders.
Then came Troy Torres, followed by the Guam BBQ Block Party.
Torres, the former communications director for the Calvo-Tenorio administration, was arrested April 28 on drug allegations. He was released and never charged.
He blamed Ray Tenorio and the Guam Police Department for his arrest. He launched a series of attacks on Ray Tenorio accusing him of involvement in various corrupt schemes, all of which Ray Tenorio denied, and none of which ever went beyond allegations.
But the worst damage to the Tenorio-Ada campaign was done by Ray Tenorio himself. On July 7, near the close of the Guam BBQ Block Party, Ray Tenorio approached a uniformed police officer from behind and lifted the officer’s handgun out of its holster after noticing it did not appear to be securely fastened.
He initially explained it was a “teachable moment” for the officer, but he later acknowledged the teaching moment had been his own.
The incident haunted his campaign and clouded his campaign team's attempts to focus on the issues.
Tenorio-Ada ended up with just 9,487 votes in the general election, not much more than the write-in team of Aguon-Limtiaco.
Leon Guerrero and Joshua Tenorio were the front-runners from the start.
Leon Guerrero had the advantage of plenty of funding, much of which she provided herself in the form of an $800,000 loan.
Unlike her Republican rival, Leon Guerrero had no recent public record to defend, which left her free to go on the offensive against the eight-year record of the Calvo-Tenorio administration.
She hammered her rival repeatedly for being part of an administration that raised taxes instead of collecting unpaid taxes owed to the government of Guam.
“I’m going to collect the $200 million that has not been collected by this administration,” she said at the Great Debate on Oct. 31.
At a Guam Visitors Bureau forum, she faulted the administration for failing to fight crime. She said, “We need to put more police officers on the street. Right now, we are supposed to have 464 policemen – we only have 191.”
At the Guam Medical Association forum on Oct. 19, Ray Tenorio called attention to Leon Guerrero’s support for abortion during her time as a Guam senator in the 1990s.
Ray Tenorio said Leon Guerrero would be subjected to conflicts of interest if elected governor due to her association with the Bank of Guam and the millions of dollars in loans GovGuam has with that institution.
And Ray Tenorio pounced on Leon Guerrero for her remarks at a campaign rally when she said, "This is my island. I am from here, Ray. I was born and raised here, Ray. My family is here, Ray, and I am more qualified to be governor of Guam." He called the comments "appalling."
None of it stuck.
In the three-way race for governor, the Leon Guerrero-Tenorio team won 50.79 percent of the vote, more than the total of her two rivals combined.
It was a historic win. In addition to being the first woman to be elected governor of Guam, she becomes the first Democrat to sit in Adelup in 16 years.
The 2018 election, however, leaves splintered ranks in the Democrat and Republican parties.
“We got our butts kicked,” Republican Party of Guam Chairman Jerry Crisostomo said of the November election. “That was the worst defeat for Republicans, and unless we close this divide, we’re never going to win elections.”
The landscape looks no better in the Democratic Party. Despite the claim on Adelup and a supermajority in the Legislature, the wounds of the write-in campaign between two Democratic Party rivals will not soon be forgotten.