Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero wants to be remembered as one of the lawmakers in the Legislature that promoted compromise and cooperation between his fellow members that have different political ideologies and belong to opposing parties.
Deleon Guerrero spent 17 years in the House, serving from the 13th to 20th legislatures. He was the House speaker in the 18th, became vice speaker in the 19th, and appointed as the first House Gaming Committee chair when the panel was created in the 20th for any legislation for the new casino gaming industry.
He was also the author of Public Law 20-66 or the Taulamwaar Sensible CNMI Cannabis Act of 2018 that authorize the legal use, regulation, and control of marijuana in the Commonwealth.
He is hoping that the impeachment of former governor Benigno R. Fitial when he was the speaker of the 18th Legislature would not be his lone legacy in the CNMI. “I’m proud to say that I learned a lot that made me more effective as a representative since I was first elected. I’d like to think that I also helped contribute to the CNMI.”
“I’ve never shied away from making hard decisions; that is one of my proudest moments. I never run away from a vote because it is unpopular. We’re elected to make the hard decisions and I think that I’ve done that. I’m proud of that.”
He said that previous legislatures have been filled with political infighting and partisan politics. “I can scream and shout all I want but really the way to make a difference is to go in and be the change from within. I think that I can agree that a difference has been made. Now, partisan politics is not as extreme like in the past.”
“Working together. [I think] that’s one of the things that I left behind. They [members] learned to work together. It is not always harmonious but at least respectful. Whoever comes in after that, learns that, I think that we have made promise of good things to come from our elected officials.”
Deleon Guerrero added that disagreements would often come up in the Legislature, but reminded the current members to remain professional like what he had done as speaker. “The legacy I hope that I left or imparted is to promote cooperation, compromise, and respect. Even across the aisle, respect among members must be followed.”
“If there’s respect among the members, agree to disagree has become a more common term. In the past, disagreements often leave bad sentiments. I think, the legislators now are more professional. I hope they take that with them with the new members. Learn that they can disagree but not make it personal.”
He then challenged the members of the 21st to make the decisions that would benefit the people, even though it may be unpopular. “They [21st Legislature] really need to work together. Everybody has the same goal, that is to help our people.”
“I hope that they are courageous enough to make the hard decisions. That’s why the people put them there. Now, as a member of the public, I will stand with the people to hold them accountable with their decisions.”
He said that losing his senatorial bid was his final foray into politics. “My career as an elected official in the Legislature, I think that chapter is now officially closed. I will not be running again. I think I already put in my time and I have given back.”
Deleon Guerrero ran for one of the two senatorial seats on Saipan and the Northern Islands, but came in third behind independent Vinnie Sablan and re-electionist Sen. Justo S. Quitugua.
He is now exploring all of his options, even thinking of a possible Cabinet appointment on the administration of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres. “What’s next is interesting. I’m looking at retirement or see if the current administration may need me to serve in any capacity. There are many options. I still want to help in whatever way that I can.”
Deleon Guerrero then thanked the people of Precinct 3 for their trust and allowing him to serve for 17 years. “I’m just glad and thankful that my message to the people, especially the people of Precinct 1. I am so indebted to them for allowing me to be elected this long. I also think that I need to re-prioritize my life. My health and family are my priorities right now.”