“More likely, there will be a runoff [election] and I assure you that the Democratic Party will be a part of it,” said Edward “Tofila” M. Deleon Guerrero, moments after he was officially endorsed last night as the Democrats’ candidate for governor in the November election. Also endorsed were former representative Daniel “Danny” O. Quitugua as lieutenant governor bet, and former Commerce secretary Andrew Salas as delegate candidate.
Benjamin M. Cepeda, chairman of the Democratic Party, presented the three official candidates last night at the party headquarters in Dandan, in the presence of family members and supporters.
“The fight for survival, rights, and future security of our young children shall begin,” Cepeda told the crowd.
The Democratic Party will later announce the rest of the slate of candidates including those for mayors, senators, and House members, he said.
Only four more slots need to be filled, Cepeda added.
The next Democratic Party meeting at their headquarters will be on April 3, Thursday, at 6pm.
Deleon Guerrero, a former Commonwealth Ports Authority executive director, said he is grateful for the Democratic Party for putting their trust in him, Quitugua, and Salas. Salas is so far the only one to challenge Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) in the November race.
“We can make a difference,” Deleon Guerrero told reporters.
In answering media questions, Deleon Guerrero said their priorities are to fix the economy, restore retirees’ pension cut, secure the future of those whom he said were “forced” to withdraw their retirement contribution, and lower utility rates, among others.
Deleon Guerrero said the Democratic Party is “not against improved status” for long-term foreign workers. He said he is “very sensible about the contributions of people who have been here” for decades. He also said that no economy succeeds without the numbers.
His running mate, Quitugua, had been sending letters to the editor, expressing opposition to the inclusion of a CNMI-specific provision in national immigration reform bills still pending in U.S. Congress.
Quitugua, who also served as director of Labor’s Hearing Division in 2006-2007, said he’s being misunderstood by many. He said he is not against the Commonwealth-only worker program, which is set to expire on Dec. 31, 2014, unless extended by the U.S. Department of Labor.
But Quitugua said the existing process of becoming U.S. citizens is working and has always worked, when asked specifically on whether he supports Kilili Sablan’s CNMI-specific provisions in S. 744 and H.R. 15 allowing improved immigration status for long-term foreign workers in the CNMI.
Echoing Cepeda’s statement, Deleon Guerrero said the Democratic Party was a strong political party in the ’80s and that their hard work led to “a lot of the things we enjoyed in the ‘90s.”
Cepeda, in his speech, said it was the Democratic Party that took the lead in exploring options to improve political and economic opportunities in the ‘50s to the ‘80s.
“It was the Democratic Party leadership that secured the political status the Commonwealth is guided by today. It was also during the Democratic Party’s two administrations when the Commonwealth government realized huge surplus of revenues, economic prosperity was felt throughout the Commonwealth, and our people were excited and positively hopeful,” he said.
The Democratic Party’s Deleon Guerrero-Quitugua tandem will be running against at least three other tickets.
They are Gov. Eloy S. Inos and Senate President Ralph Torres (R-Saipan) of the Republican Party; former House speaker Heinz S. Hofschneider and Senate floor leader Ray Yumul (Ind-Saipan), running as independents; and former governor Juan N. Babauta and former senator Juan Sablan Torres, also Republicans whose request for a primary was shot down, but they have yet to decide whether they would still run.
With at least four gubernatorial teams, it would be tough to get at least 50 percent plus one of the votes cast in the November. This means the CNMI is headed for another runoff election.