Early voting is now in full swing, and runoff election day is Friday, Nov. 25, the day after Thanksgiving. This Thanksgiving coincides with one of the meanest, most rancorous political seasons many of us have seen in the Marianas—and also one of our most important elections in a generation. It’s worth pausing to reflect on all of that.
I am immensely grateful for having had the honor to stand as your Democratic candidate for governor in the 2022 general election, and to work side-by-side with a running mate of unimpeachable integrity, vision, and courage as Leila Fleming Staffler. I am especially grateful to the 4,132 people who gave us their votes of confidence and trust. It was not enough to get us into the runoff this time, but I am grateful that we still have an opportunity to make the change in leadership that we need in the Marianas.
The people who voted for Leila and me have in their hands the power to deliver the critical margin of victory for Arnold Palacios and David Apatang, both respected, long-time public servants. As important, the people who voted for Leila and me also have the power to oust Ralph Torres, the most corrupt, abusive, and vindictive governor the Commonwealth has ever had.
The key is to make sure that we show up and vote in the runoff election. Everyone should get out and vote, and I urge everyone to vote for Arnold and Dave. They are by far the better option, and the only choice on the ballot for the change we need. And to all the young voters and first-time voters who supported Leila and me on November 8—in answer to a common question that I am hearing: Yes, you do have to cast your votes again to be counted in the runoff.
Every vote matters.
Ralph and the Torres Republicans have been waging an aggressive campaign based on vote-buying, fear-mongering, and disinformation. They’re using public funds for political favor, and not even trying to be subtle about it. Passing out red sacks of rice with images of a big, crowned elephant. Throwing parties where GOP operatives work the room, make promises, and enlist supporters. Conducting public events and photo-ops for Ralph to announce “donations” and “awards” and personally hand out checks. Drowning the airwaves and social media feeds with ads in which recipients of these checks personally thank him.
As if the money came from him. As if the taxpayer dollars that he is so freely doling out do not come with strings attached. As if these “gifts” of public money aren’t screaming for audits and investigations. As if the Commonwealth government isn’t hemorrhaging. As if we all won’t have to eventually pay the price.
Every vote matters.
In their bid to win in the runoff election, Ralph and the Torres Republicans are vying, in their words, to “infiltrate” the Democrat-independent coalition, and “capture” supporters. They have co-opted the language and platform of Democrats, planted false rumors to divide and confuse, and trotted out the endorsements of “historical Democrats” who actually have a history of flipping and aligning with Republicans to suit their political, personal, or financial objectives.
Leila and I ran on a platform of good governance, guided by the values of fairness, honesty, and fiscal responsibility and our vision for a safer, healthier, more equitable, and more beautiful Marianas. We wrote that platform together, in collaboration with a team of supporters and advisers. We also played a large role in writing the platform of the NMI Democratic Party, which is the foundation upon which our campaign platform builds.
Leila and I put our hearts and highest hopes into these documents. They are our blueprints for the future, and for our continued advocacy for a better Commonwealth for all.
So imagine how much we cringe to hear Ralph and his supporters suddenly claim to have so much in common with us. They’ve even professed to have a similar platform, which is both laughable and misleading because Ralph and the GOP do not actually have a platform, at all. We’ve looked. If they do, they’ve hidden it well.
A glossy, full-color bulleted list of purported “accomplishments” filled with inaccuracies and unwarranted credit-grabbing does not make a platform. Merely declaring that Ralph’s leadership is “consistent with the core values of the Democratic Party” does not make it true—and totally ignores our steadfast fight over the years against the public corruption, abuses of power, political intimidation, and fiscal recklessness that Ralph represents.
Ralph’s leadership is the opposite of good governance.
Let’s remember that Ralph is an impeached governor—charged by a bipartisan supermajority of representatives in the Legislature with corruption, theft, and neglect of duty. Let’s remember that Ralph is facing criminal charges in local court for theft and misconduct. Let’s remember that Ralph is the first and only governor to have been raided by the FBI, and that federal investigations appear to be ongoing.
Let’s also remember that despite numerous groundbreaking ceremonies and photo-ops, and all the billboards proclaiming 100% recovery, many critical infrastructure, education, healthcare, and reconstruction projects remain unfinished and even unstarted. Let’s remember that Ralph has run deficits for seven straight years, and cannot account for two billion federal tax dollars secured for the Marianas by Delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan and the millions more appropriated by the Legislature to help the Commonwealth rebuild for the future. Ralph has been on an all-out spending spree in his bid to retain power if we let him—and to wreck government coffers if we vote him out.
Every vote matters.
Leila and I signed the Unity Pledge with Arnold and Dave to articulate in a public document the shared vision, values, and goals of our respective platforms, and to create a roadmap of the priorities that would guide the new Palacios-Apatang administration (see bit.ly/UnityPledgeMarianas). We recognized the urgency of the moment, in uniting for the greater good of the Commonwealth. The only way to stop the bleeding of our government, and reestablish fairness, decency, fiscal responsibility, and respect for the rule of law in our Commonwealth is to remove Ralph Torres from public office. And the only choice on the ballot for changing the leadership in our government is Arnold Palacios and David Apatang.
Every vote matters. The change we need is possible if we vote for it. It’s up to us.
Happy Thanksgiving to all my fellow citizens of the Commonwealth.
Rep. Christina “Tina” Sablan (D-Saipan) is a member of the House of Representatives representing Precinct 2 of the 22nd Legislature. She was the standard-bearer of the Democratic Party of the NMI in the last general elections.