Delegate Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (Ind-MP) yesterday announced he will run for his fifth term representing the people of the Northern Mariana Islands in the U.S. Congress.
Together with family members, friends, and supporters the congressman filed his nominating petition and paid his candidate fee to the Commonwealth Election Commission, as required by law, at the Pedro P. Tenorio Multi-Purpose Center in Susupe.
Sablan also spoke to those gathered with him on the election commission steps.
“Eight years ago I promised that, if elected to be your first representative in the U.S. Congress, I would work my heart out for the people of the Northern Mariana Islands. Today, I am here at the Commonwealth Election Commission, surrounded by family and friends, who have done so much to help me over the years, to put my name on the ballot once again. And, once again, I promise you and all the people of our islands that every day, as long as you entrust me to be your representative in Congress, I will always work and work and work for you,” he said.
Sablan said in 2008, none really knew what it would mean to have someone from the Northern Marianas actually working for the CNMI inside the federal government.
“I promised I would focus on increasing funding for our students and schools. I wanted to include the Marianas fully in federal programs like SNAP. I wanted to get back our submerged lands. And, of course, everyone was concerned about how our economy would manage minimum wage increases and, especially, the transition to federal immigration. Well, we hit the ground running: making sure the Marianas was not left out of the Recovery Act, getting more money for schools, paying teachers’ salaries, and putting over $30 million into our energy system.”
Sablan also said during his watch minimum wage increases were also stretched out so businesses could absorb the cost and workers could get raises as quickly as the struggling economy would allow.
“We delayed immigration to give everyone more time to prepare, then worked with the Department of Homeland Security to keep the door open for Chinese and Russian tourists.”
Sablan went on to rattle off other accomplishments during his term in U.S. Congress.
“The number of foreign workers has been cut in half; and we recently stretched out the transition period to 2019 so the Commonwealth government would have even more time to train our own local workers for jobs in our economy.
“A few months ago, Congress finally got around to revising the No Child Left Behind law; and I was able to use that opportunity to change the funding formula for insular schools—a change worth over $4 million for Marianas schools this year and in the years ahead.”
Sablan said while it’s great to look back at what he has accomplished, he said elections are about looking forward—and setting new goals.
“The Northern Marianas today are doing much better than when I was first elected. Our economy is stronger. We have new investment. We all know, however, that there are still huge problems to solve. Some of those problems are a matter of local self-government. Some are problems the federal government can help with.”
He said many of the problems require both local and federal governments to work together and that’s what he intends to do if once again reelected.
“Gov. [Ralph DLG] Torres recently proposed—and I introduced legislation—defining a way forward on immigration. He is working in the 902 consultations. I am using all the connections I have made in Congress over the years. I have introduced legislation that would provide the earned income tax credit for working families in the Marianas. The governor has made the same proposal in 902. The extra money from the credit will encourage people to go to work and help replace foreign workers,” he said.
Sablan also said he’s working on the Commonwealth’s full inclusion in the Medicaid program.
“Last week, I was at the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia. And I can tell you that we are already working with the Clinton campaign to make sure that full inclusion in Medicaid for the Marianas—just like a state—is part of their plan for 2017. By the way, because of the extra money we got for Medicaid in Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, our hospital has been able to stay open. [That’s] $1 million every month since 2011.”
On the education front, Sablan said he’s looking ahead to the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act in the next Congress.
“Debt-free college is high on the Presidential agendas. And as a senior member of the Education Committee in the House of Representatives, I will be able to work to benefit our college and college students in the next Congress, the same way I helped elementary and secondary students in this Congress.
He ended his speech with a promise that if elected again on Nov. 8 he will return to the country’s capital with eight years of experience behind him and ready to work smarter and harder than ever before.
“None of what I have been able to accomplish and none of what I aim to accomplish in the years ahead is possible without the support of all of you here today. I am so grateful for all the work you have done to help me get to Washington and stay there representing the people of the Marianas.”