Democratic Party’s 9 female bets meet the press


The nine female candidates of the NMI Democratic Party pose for a group photo after a press conference at the party’s headquarters in Garapan Saturday morning. Sitting from left are Luella Marciano, Edith Deleon Guerrero, and Leila Staffler. Standing from left are Celina Babauta, Rep. Christina Sablan, Corina Lorraine Magofna, Rep. Sheila Babauta, Jenita Castro, and Denita Yangetmai.

The NMI Democratic Party presented Saturday its nine female candidates who are part of the party’s 18-person roster for this Nov. 3 general elections.

Nine female candidates in a political party who are gunning for legislative seats is a historic first in the CNMI, according to NMI Democratic Party chair Nola K. Hix, who introduced the female candidates during a press conference at the party’s headquarters in Garapan.

The party’s female candidates are spearheaded by former Labor secretary Edith Eleonor Deleon Guerrero, who is eyeing a Saipan Senate post, and Reps. Christina Marie-Elise Sablan and Sheila Jack Babauta, who are seeking re-election for the House of Representatives Precincts 2 and 4, respectively.

The other female candidates for the House are Celina Roberto Babauta for Precinct 1, Luella Ichihara Marciano for Precinct 2, Corina Lorraine Magofna and Denita Kaipat Yangetmai for Precinct 3, Jenita Babauta Castro for Precinct 4, and Leila Fleming Clark Staffler for Precinct 5.

Edith Deleon Guerrero said she wants to restore integrity, responsibility and overall governance to improve people’s lives. “I’m very excited to run with these beautiful, intelligent women here at the table,” said Deleon Guerrero. She believes that “love for our people, love for our country, love for our mother Marianas” is central to their cause.

Celina Babauta, a former executive assistant to then-governor Juan N. Babauta, said she wants to bring back accountability to government. “I think women make better financial managers only because of their inherent nature to be more detailed,” Babauta said, adding that society has created these psychological impediments and hurdles and that women have successfully overcome those hurdles. “Women should be allowed to succeed on their own merit,” she said.

Babauta said that more women in government office means that people can expect a more organized, more efficient, and more bipartisan collaboration. “Only because we bring that woman factor in there,” she said.

Rep. Christina Sablan said she wants to continue her work in the Legislature and is committed to open government, transparent government, and a government that responds to the needs of people. “I’d like to call the people in the Commonwealth to vote for positive change. Vote for candidates who are committed to restoring trust and integrity in our government,” she said.

Sablan said all these women running for office is historic, unprecedented, and exciting.

Right now, Sablan is one of three women in the House of Representatives, which has always been dominated by men. Sablan said that what she has seen and has been shown in studies is that having more diversity in the Legislature and in any policy making body really makes a difference. More women often tend to translate into priority for education, for health care, for safety and for environmental protection.

“Women make up half of the population. We should be half of the decision making authority in this government and in this community,” Sablan said.

Luella Ichihara Marciano, a retired teacher who is both a mother and grandmother, believes that it’s high time that people deserve some common sense leadership. Marciano said she believes that, with all nine women candidates, they can bring clarity into the session at the Legislature.

“We are very protective and the way I see it, we are the lionesses of the Democratic Party,” she said.

Corina Magofna, who is a budget officer at the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. and has over 15 years’ experience in accounting and finance in the U.S. mainland and Saipan, is confident she can ensure checks and balances in government spending and accountability. Magofna is for open and honest government, open-door policy, and opportunities.

She said mothers are the managers of the household and teachers and they do it on a daily basis without getting any credit. “Because it’s innate, it’s natural for them to just take care of everything without complaining,” she said.

Magofna said there is a need for more female viewpoints in the Legislature to bring fresh perspectives to the House.

Denita Yangetmai, who has been an educator for 22 years, also stressed the need to restore transparency, accountability, and checks and balances in government. She said it’s not surprising that eight of them are running for the House as women are great home makers.

Jenita Castro, who has a background in labor and immigration, is currently working as an analyst at the Department of Commerce Worker’s Compensation Commission. Castro said she running under the Democratic Party because she believes in transparency. “I want to push the value of integrity because I believe our community deserves more,” Castro said.

Castro said women take their emotions and put it into positive action. “That’s the strength of women. Our experiences, make us stronger to overcome anything that comes our way. So yeah, come election, vote for most amazing candidates,” she said.

Rep. Sheila Babauta said she is passionate about community programs and community empowerment and working with the youth. “There’s just so much work to do and I believe that there’s value that we can add to our government,” Babauta said, adding that each of them bring a different perspective and that’s very important when it comes to representation.

When there is true representation in leadership positions, Babauta said they can craft legislation and policies that represent and work for all people. “I believe that having more women at the table will bring a more holistic approach as you can tell by all comments made here,” she said.

Leila Staffler, a former principal at the Kagman High School, has been an educator for 18 years and believes that the next logical step for her is to run for office because, as she has always told her students, community service is the most important thing that people can participate in with their civic duties. Running for office is the ultimate form of community service, Staffler said.

She said she has chosen the Democratic Party because it stands for transparency and open government, which according to her is very important especially if people want change. “So that we can have and see the change that the CNMI desperately needs,” she added.

Staffler said leadership foundation starts with the individual as it’s their personality traits. “Whether it’s their passion, it’s their charisma. And when you really think about it, women are no different than men and they can be leaders who have that commitment to their community,” she said.

Staffler said women are able to do multi-tasks and get things done. “And I definitely see a group of leaders [at this table] who have been doing that, whether it’s in their homes or in their communities. And they will continue to do it regardless of what happens because that’s who we are. That’s what we do,” she said.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at

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