• By Emmanuel T. Erediano

NMI Democrats win 8 House seats, Saipan Senate race


CNMI Democratic senatorial candidate on Saipan, Edith Deleon Guerrero, gestures as she speaks during a gathering of supporters on Tuesday evening at Garapan Central Park. Photo by Emmanuel T. Erediano

Saipan- It wasn’t exactly a “blue wave,” but it was a rising “blue tide” nonetheless as eight NMI Democrats and their two Independent allies won seats in the 20-member House of Representatives. They also claimed a Saipan Senate seat that was last won by a Democrat in 2003.

The Republicans, for their part, retained nine of the 13 House seats they won in 2018 while one Independent aligned with the GOP, Precinct 1’s Joseph Flores, was also reelected.

This means that the Democratic and Republican blocs in the House will each have 10 seats.

Over 500 absentee ballots have yet to be received and counted, but they are not expected to alter the results in any of the races.

Commonwealth Election Commission administrative officer Kayla Igitol said the CEC board will tabulate the absentee ballots on Nov. 17 and certify the results.

As of press time Wednesday evening, the CEC had not provided information about the voter turnout.

In the Senate race, former Labor Secretary Edith Deleon Guerrero, the Democratic candidate, edged the Republican incumbent, Sixto K. Igisomar.

Deleon Guerrero garnered 5,133 votes while Igisomar received 4,888.

In the Precinct 1 House race, Edwin Propst, who resigned his seat last October, placed first to win another term. It was not known, however, if he will accept the voters’ mandate. If he declines to serve, a special election will be held to fill his seat.

Three other prominent Democratic critics of the governor and his Republican administration also coasted to victory: Rep. Tina Sablan in Precinct 2, Celina R. Babauta in Precinct 1 and Leila Staffler in Precinct 5.

On Rota, the lone minority member, Sen. Paul A. Manglona, defeated his young Republican opponent, Dennis C. Mendiola, the governor’s fire commissioner.

The GOP’s Rota House candidate, Barry Toves, likewise lost to incumbent Rep. Donald Manglona.

The two Manglonas are independents aligned with the Democrats.

On Tinian, however, the Republican Senate and House candidates on Tinian won.

On Saipan, the Republican House members who lost were Precinct 1’s Roman C. Benavente and LJ Castro who sought reelection as an independent; Precinct 3’s Marco Peter and Jose Itibus; and Precinct 5’s Lorenzo I. Deleon Guerrero, the current House vice speaker.

NMI Democratic Party Vice Chairman Danny Quitugua said it is the people of the Commonwealth who won the election.

The results, he said, reflect the concerns of the people regarding their government.

“That has been the driving force behind the candidates of the NMI Democratic Party who want to be given the opportunity to serve the people and do what is best for them,” he added.

Quitugua said he has been helping rebuild the local Democratic Party for many years, and this year’s elections show that the people want their government to be “much better, more trusted and transparent.”

He added, “I am very grateful for the outcome. A lot of people worked together to do what is necessary and what needs to be done.”

The last time the NMI Democratic Party won a legislative seat was in 2007.

“It was very difficult to win elections until this very moment,” Quitugua said.

“And again, I cannot be more graciously thankful to the people of the Commonwealth for making this decision.”

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Sen.-elect Edith Deleon Guerrero, who placed fifth in the five-person senatorial election in 2018, said she was very humbled by the support of the people who want to see change, and a government that is honest and responsible.

“I love our island and I love our people,” she said, adding that the victory of NMI Democratic Party is in the best interest of the Commonwealth and its people.

For his part, Rota Sen. Paul A. Manglona, who has been a lawmaker since 1988, said the clear message from the people is that their government needs more accountability and transparency, “especially in these critical and challenging times.”

He said he strongly believes that the winning Democratic and Independent candidates will place public interest over their personal interest.

He thanked those who have given him another opportunity to serve them for another term.

Rep.-elect Celina Babauta said, “our votes are a declaration of our values and I am deeply honored by the community of Precinct 1 for placing their trust in me to represent their collective voices.”

She added, “Undeniably, my success is your success too. So congratulations to you and your families yan humitde na agradesimiento para todos I man patisipao ya ma exisisa i direchon niha ya man man bota.”

She said the actions she may take “as a contributing member of the 22nd House of Representatives will represent a symbol of public authority and your trust. I encourage all elected officials regardless of political affiliation to set irrelevant differences aside and work toward helping lift our people out of hardship.”

U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, an independent who caucuses with the national Democrats, ran unopposed to secure a seventh term.

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