Of the 12 House of Representatives candidates vying for seats in Saipan’s Precinct 3, eight showed up at a public forum organized by the Marianas Young Professionals at the Pedro P. Tenorio Multi-Purpose Center in Susupe on Wednesday night.
Twelve individuals will be battling for six House of Representatives Precinct 3 positions, giving the precinct the most number of candidates in the Nov. 8 election. Eight independents and four Republicans are candidates for Precinct 3 that covers Garapan, Oleai and parts of Mt. Tapochau.
The candidates who joined the “Meet the Candidates” forum were Rep. Edmund Joseph Sablan Villagomez (independent), Francisco Santos Dela Cruz (Republican), Rep. Ralph Naraja Yumul (independent), Vicente Castro Camacho (independent), Rep. Blas Jonathan “BJ” Attao (independent), Ivan Alafonso Blanco (Republican), Donald Cabrera Barcinas (Republican), and Jose Ilo Itibus (Republican).
Those who did not make it because they were off-island or for other reasons were former representative Heinz Sablan Hofschneider (independent), Rep. Anthony Tenorio Benavente (independent), House minority leader Ramon Angailen Tebuteb (independent), and former representative Stanley Estanislao Tudela McGinnis Torres (independent).
After the forum that started at 5:30pm and finished past 8pm, the public met the candidates at the after-party held at Naked Fish.
At the forum, candidates were asked about topics/categories such as poverty; education; 902 talks; Article 12; Pagan and the military, live-fire plans; economic development; where do they stand on the casino; CW issues; minimum wage; budget and financial integrity; and vision for Garapan as the economic hub of the CNMI.
Attorneys Tiberius Mocanu and Michael Sato, who served as moderators, asked the candidates questions that were submitted confidentially through the MyPros members. Time limits were strictly enforced.
There were six questions plus some follow-up questions. The eight candidates were divided into two blocs. Each bloc of four candidates got three different questions.
Marianas Young Professionals board director Kaitlyn Neises-Mocanu said the event was very positive as they got almost all the Precinct 3 candidates to come.
Neises-Mocanu said one candidate is off-island, one they could not get in touch with, and some had other engagements.
“We got the majority of the candidates to be here. It’s very successful. This is the largest political forum that I have been to,” she said.
Neises-Mocanu has been on Saipan for six years. She has not been involved in politics until a few years ago.
“This is certainly the biggest turnout that I have seen in any kind of these political events,” she said, estimating that at least 100 people showed up.
Neises-Mocanu said the purpose of the forum is to get the public informed about who are they going to be voting for.
“We want everyone to make an informed decision as to who they going to be electing to make laws for the CNMI,” she said.
Neises-Mocanu said really important that aside from looking at billboards and seeing the candidates waving on the streets, voters should hear what they’ve got to say or what they stand for.
She said there is not a lot of opportunity to actually get to know the candidates and what they stand for.
“Otherwise, you’d just be voting maybe as a popularity contest. This is a non-partisan objective way of looking at each candidate,” Neises-Mocanu pointed out.
She said they picked up questions from their members that were submitted during their event a few weeks back.
She said the moderators went through the questions, and chose the most popular and most relevant right now.
MyPros chose Precinct 3 because it has the largest amount of candidates and because of hot areas covered—Garapan, Oleai, and part of Tapochau.
MyPros will also hold a senatorial debate among Saipan candidates Sen. Sixto Kaipat Igisomar (Republican) and former denator Ralph Naraja Yumul (independent) will be at the same venue on Wednesday, Oct. 26, from 5:30pm to 9pm.