With his wife Andrea, parents, relatives, and dozens of supporters by his side, Delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan (Ind-MP) filed his nomination petition and documents with the Commonwealth Election Commission at 2:18pm yesterday, making his candidacy official.
Sablan is seeking a third term as the CNMI's first-and so far the only-nonvoting delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives. The elections will be held on Nov. 6.
“Today we are off and running. And although I am the candidate, this is not a race that I am taking alone. The people of the Northern Mariana Islands are in this race with me,” he said, as he asked for people's support for his candidacy.
Sablan was the second individual to file his candidacy on the first day of filing nomination petitions yesterday.
The first to file yesterday was Ignacio V. Cabrera, an independent candidate for Precinct III, said Election Commission administrative specialist Kayla Igitol.
As of yesterday, Sablan's known opponent, Dr. Ignacia Demapan of the Republican Party of the CNMI Association, has yet to file her candidacy. Gov. Benigno R. Fitial, president of the local GOP, has been campaigning hard for Demapan and has been critical of Sablan's work.
In an interview, Sablan said he is the “underdog” in what could be a two-way race unless additional delegate candidates surface.
“The last time, they threw the kitchen sink at me,” he said, referring to the Fitial camp's campaign tactics. “I think this time they're going to throw the bathtub at me. The people of the Northern Mariana Islands have given me their trust twice. The least I can do in return is to continue to trust in their judgment. And I believe they know who can represent their interests in Congress and do the work we all need to do to continue to progress forward, for a Northern Mariana Islands we can all be proud of,” he told Saipan Tribune.
There were nine candidates in the first delegate race in 2008. In the 2010 race, there were four. The 2012 delegate race could have only two-Sablan and Demapan. Sablan said he submitted “way more than the 200 signatures needed” to support his candidacy.
In answering questions from reporters inside the jam-packed Election Commission office in Susupe, Sablan said he feels “welcome” and “humbled” by the show of support. Besides his family and relatives, the crowd included independents, Republicans, and Covenant Party members.
Sablan was a former executive director of the Commonwealth Elections Commission. Years later, he would find himself-for the third time-on the other side of the fence, filing a nomination petition instead of being the one accepting a nomination petition from candidates.
He said the commission has hardworking staff and fair, to ensure free elections.
Since he was first elected into office, Sablan has championed education, health, welfare, and the economy, among other things.
In a separate statement that his office released, Sablan said, “There is no higher privilege than our people's decision to represent them in Congress for two terms and for that I am extremely grateful and very humbled.”
“As always, it is for our people to decide who continues to work on their behalf and on behalf of our Northern Mariana Islands. And so, in all humility, I once again ask for the support of our people this election as we continue in earnest our work for a Northern Mariana Islands we can all be proud of,” he said.
Oscar M. Babauta, chairman of the Covenant Party's 2012 campaign committee, said the Covenant Party stands behind Sablan, who was endorsed by the party and its titular head, Lt. Gov. Eloy S. Inos, on Covenant Day in March.
Babauta, who was among those in the crowd yesterday, said that Sablan has been an effective voice of the CNMI in Congress.
Juan S. Tenorio, who calls himself a true Republican, said Sablan has been doing a “tremendous” job for the CNMI and its people, and is endorsing Sablan's candidacy. Also in the crowd was Rep. Ray Tebuteb (R-Saipan).