Nine reelectionists from the House of Representatives, two first-time candidates, and one hoping to return to the Senate joined together to form a group of independents that will be seeking seats in the CNMI Legislature.
Reelectionists Reps. Blas Jonathan Attao, Anthony Tenorio Benavente, Roman C. Benavente, Lorenzo I. Deleon Guerrero, Vinnie E. Sablan, Ramon Aingalen Tebuteb, and Ralph N. Yumul had already filed their certificates of candidacy.
Attao, Deleon Guerrero, Roman C. Benavente, Sablan, and Ralph N. Yumul filed their respective COCs Tuesday at the Commonwealth Election Commission at the Pedro P. Tenorio Multipurpose Center together with rookie candidate Joseph Arriola Flores and former senator Ray N. Yumul.
Reps. Tebuteb and Anthony T. Benavente were the first to file their COCs separately. Incumbent Reps. Edwin K. Propst and Edmund S. Villagomez are expected to turn in their respective COCs within the week. Danny Aquino, another candidate, has yet to file his candidacy before the Aug. 10 deadline.
Tebuteb, who accompanied his colleagues Thursday, said the independent block began in the 19th Legislature where he and others who are seeking reelection came together. “What we did is come together with the focus and intent of accountability. Our group is composed of individuals who are united not necessarily because of party principles.”
Ray Yumul, who ran for lieutenant governor in the last election, said he decided to make another run in the Senate after consulting with the group and other concerned individuals who wanted him to continue his public service. “We’re sort of a support group that is united with the same goals and ideas. We just often meet and share ideas.”
If elected again, he would focus on infrastructure, finding solutions to the problems at the Commonwealth Utilities Corp., and education. “I have been a proponent of developing infrastructure the right way and when it comes to utilities, the high cost is a burden and we must find ways on how to live comfortably minus the high rates.”
Tebuteb added that CUC’s problems must be treated positively. “We need to face CUC’s problems with optimism. Their problems impacts us all, whether in business or in government.”
Yumul said their group would also focus on education. “We must keep standards to produce high caliber graduates in or society and so that our community could also grow intellectually.”
That’s why Attao filed House Bill 19-183 that would appropriate $6 million form the casino business gross revenue tax to the CNMI Public School System. A third of the $6 million, if it becomes a law, will be used for payment of PSS’s CUC obligations and for school bus drivers overtime pay and salary increase. HB 19-183 is still pending at the Ways and Means Committee.
“Another portion would also assist the Chamorro-Carolinian bilingual program and for putting more teachers in the special education program,” added Attao.
Rep. Vinnie Sablan, meanwhile, would continue to push for his environmental bills. “Trash has become a problem here on our islands especially in the beaches. It is tougher to visit the tourist sites since some people leave their trash.”