Republican Party of the CNMI Association president, Gov. Benigno R. Fitial, and other GOP members endorsed the party's 19 candidates so far while taking turns lambasting Delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan (Ind-MP) and the CNMI Senate at the GOP's kickoff rally for the Nov. 6 midterm elections yesterday. Sablan and the Senate do not see eye to eye with the administration on a host of issues.
The Republicans have yet to name five other candidates-three for Saipan's Precinct 3, one senatorial candidate for Tinian, and one representative candidate for Tinian-to have a full slate of 24.
The crowd estimate at the GOP kickoff rally at the Civic Center in Susupe was about 500, although most Republicans asked yesterday said it was around 1,000. The event started with a motorcade and road waving.
Sablan could not be reached for immediate comment yesterday because of the time difference between the CNMI and Washington, D.C.
Fitial and other Republicans such as former governor and now Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. chief executive officer Juan N. Babauta and Lands and Natural Resources Secretary Arnold Palacios urged voters to vote for Dr. Ignacia T. Demapan to replace Sablan in Congress. Sablan has aligned himself with the Democrats in Congress, but said he has also been working with Republicans.
Fitial and other party members said if and when Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney wins over Democratic President Barack Obama, the CNMI should expect more help from the White House, as well as from what they expect would be a Republican Congress. Recent moves by the Republicans, however, threatened to cut some program funding for the CNMI and other states and territories.
Senate President Paul Manglona (Ind-Rota), in a phone interview yesterday, said the governor has always wanted to talk about casinos as a silver bullet, “but not the 99 other things on the table” which he said the Senate has been and will continue to push for.
“The Senate has been proactive in passing initiatives and bills to address the Retirement Fund, public health, public safety and education. We hope the House will pass those. Revenue-generating bills have to originate from the House,” Manglona said.
At the same time, he urged Saipan voters to sign the ongoing popular initiative so that the question of whether voters want to legalize casino gaming on Saipan will be placed on the Nov. 6 ballot.
“I really wish that question will be placed on the ballot. But if they cannot even get enough signatures to put it on the ballot, they should not come back to the Legislature to pass a bill,” he added.
Fitial spent some 10 minutes addressing the crowd of Republicans, mostly wearing red shirts. Fitial, Babauta, Palacios, and GOP Blue Ribbon Committee chair Oscar Rasa, among others, spoke in the vernacular.
In an interview after delivering his impromptu remarks, Fitial said, “Kilili doesn't have a concrete plan of helping, creating sustainability for the future of the Commonwealth. He's more interested in putting the Commonwealth in a welfare state, the food stamp.”
Fitial said Sablan should focus more on improving the economy.
“He claims that every time there's ARRA [funding], he's responsible for that. I'm the governor. I meet with the governors twice a year. And we're the ones discussing ARRA with Obama. We didn't discuss ARRA with the U.S. Congress. He's always trying to deceive people; he has nothing to do with ARRA,” Fitial told reporters.
The ARRA legislation was one of the first few bills that Sablan voted on during his first term in Congress.
The CNMI has been awarded over $119 million in ARRA grants since 2009. But as of March 30, 2012, the CNMI has yet to draw down $28.79 million. Sablan has been asking the administration to speed up the completion and spending of ARRA money.
Fitial said he also told the crowd, “We've had had enough of Kilili. No more.”
Sablan supporters said yesterday it's difficult for the CNMI Republicans to replace Sablan with Demapan because Sablan has been doing the best he could to help the CNMI and its people.
As for the CNMI Senate, Fitial said he initiated summits and meetings to discuss with the Legislature solutions to problems such as the economy and the Retirement Fund.
“What else do they want? I initiated all those summit meetings. They don't like the issues, initiatives so they stopped. Now they're blaming me for not coming up [with a plan],” he said.
Babauta, for his part, told the crowd in vernacular that Sablan claimed credit for the federal funding received for the Kagman Community Health Center. Babauta, who lost to Sablan in the delegate race, said there were others who worked to get the $603,333 in startup funds for the Kagman center.
Fitial said the Republican Party will have a full slate.
However, he said members on Tinian asked for more time to name candidates for the Senate and House.
Saipan's Precinct 3 also still lacks three of six candidates needed.
Besides Dr. Ignacia T. Demapan as delegate candidate, the Republicans also endorsed their senatorial candidates Luis Crisostimo, an incumbent, of Saipan, and Victor Hocog of Rota. The GOP's candidate for Rota representative is incumbent Rep. Teresita Santos.
The GOP's candidates for Saipan's Precinct 1 include incumbents House Speaker Eli Cabrera and Joseph Palacios, along with Richard Seman, Vicente Cabrera, Ray Dela Cruz, and Joe Limes.
Precinct 2 GOP candidates are Eric Atalig and Liana Hofschneider.
The three Precinct 3 candidates are incumbent House vice speaker Felicidad Ogumoro, along with Roy Rios and Joe Saures. Three more will be named at a later time.
GOP's Precinct 4 candidates are incumbents House floor leader George Camacho and Sylvester Iguel.
Precinct 5 also has the two incumbents: Rep. Ray Basa and Rep. Fred Deleon Guerrero.