With victory, Democrats’ control of House strengthens

Magofna handily prevails

Magofna led absentee voting, early voting, election day voting
Corina L. Magofna of the NMI Democratic Party, center, poses for a group photo with other Democrat Party lawmakers

Corina L. Magofna of the NMI Democratic Party, center, poses for a group photo with other Democrat Party lawmakers during a victory party at Hyatt Saipan Regency’s poolside Saturday night. (FERDIE DE LA TORRE)

Corina L. Magofna of the NMI Democratic Party was just 34 votes shy of securing victory last November, but this time she led the absentee voting, early voting, and election day voting to handily defeat Grace “Pitu” Sablan Vaiagae of the NMI Republican Party, 1,217-808 votes, during Saturday’s special election for a House of Representatives Precinct 3 seat.

According to the certified and official tabulation of the Commonwealth Election Commission, Magofna received 20 votes from absentee voting, while Vaiagae got 5. For early voting, Magofna obtained 647 votes, while Vaiagae had 528. On election day itself, Magofna got 550 votes, while Vaiagae received 275.

The Democratic Party monitored the election counting from the Hyatt Regency Saipan’s poolside Saturday night, and that immediately led to a celebration soon after the announcement of the results. Lawmakers and supporters were dancing. Food and drinks were served.

Magofna said during an interview at Hyatt that she felt deep in her heart that this time around she was going to take the House seat because she was very determined. “I gave 100% of all my will and power that I had. So I felt it,” she said. “What a journey it has been.”

Magofna said she can’t wait to get into the Legislature and work with all the other elected officials—and not just with the Democrats but also with the Republicans and independents. “When I said I want to run and serve the people, I meant just that. And this is not just [a win for the] Democratic Party. This is for the people. So this seat is a victory for the people of Precinct 3,” she said.

At the November 2020 election, Magofna ran under the Democratic Party for a House Precinct 3 seat, but she landed in seventh place or just 34 votes shy from securing the sixth and last spot.

Magofna is a former budget officer at the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. She has a bachelor’s degree in Business Accounting from the University of Phoenix, and an associate degree in Accounting from the University of Hawaii.

In an interview Sunday, Vaiagae said the greatest part about the day after an election is that the work of the people continues. “I extend my congratulations to Corina,” she said.

Vaiagae said it was a truly fulfilling experience to run in an election that fielded female candidates only. “It was a moment in our history that further proves the glass ceiling has been broken,” she said.

Vaiagae thanked her family, friends, campaign committee, and supporters for trusting her with their confidence. She said it was truly a pleasure to be their candidate and that she will forever be indebted to each one of them.

As they move ahead from Saturday’s election, Vaiagae calls on everyone to come together so that the most critical and pressing issues of the islands will continue to be resolved for the benefit of every person in the Marianas.

“Once again, I appreciate you all and will hold everything I’ve learned on this journey with you dear to my heart. Biba Marianas! God bless our Marianas!” she said.

Magofna and Vaiagae squared off to fill the House Precinct 3 seat that was left vacant by the sudden passing of representative Ivan A. Blanco last July 23.

The special election was crucial for Gov. Ralph DLG Torres as the Democratic-controlled House is gearing for his impeachment on allegations of corruption. The House is currently controlled by the Democrats, while the Senate is controlled by the Republicans.

To include Magofna, the House now has nine Democrats and eight Republicans, and three independents. Two independents have allied with the Democrats, while one independent has allied with the Republicans.

NMI Democratic Party chair Nola K. Hix said Saturday that people have spoken again and that the people are ready for change. “I’m so grateful. On behalf of the Democratic Party, our candidates, our voters, our supporters, our donors, we want to thank everybody that came out to exercise their rights to vote,” Hix said.

She said they’d been campaigning for eight, exhausting, anxious, and exciting days. “And we are just so happy with the results. Just ready to move forward. This is really going to set the tone for 2022,” she said as she also thanked CEC.

CEC board chair Jesus I. Sablan said the election and tabulation of votes went smoothly.

Sablan said if the tabulation of votes would have been a machine count, it would be done in 30 minutes to an hour. He said the challenges at the tabulation of votes was only the sorting of ballots.

The chairman said it takes time sorting and making sure that they’re putting the right ballots on the right box.

Aside from Sablan, the other commissioners who counted the votes and certified the results were commissioners Proserpina T. Magofna, John Diego Attao, Esther A. Yatar, and Lelanie I. Manglona. Vice chair Doris Ann Aldan-Atalig is off-island.

CEC executive director Kayla S. Igitol said Precinct 3 has 3,613 registered voters. Counted last Saturday were 25 absentee votes, 1,175 early votes, and 825 election day votes, for a total of 2,025 votes, Igitol said.

Igitol said 19 ballots, however, were voided.

She said for absentee votes, one was rejected because the voter did not enclose his affidavit.

For early voting, 12 were voided, and for election day votes, 6 were voided, Igitol said.

CEC started the tabulation between 7:20pm and 7:30pm at the Pedro P. Tenorio Multi-Purpose Center. The commissioners were done counting at 9:35pm.

“I appreciate my team, I had the greatest team ever and support as well as my board and my legal team,” Igitol said.

Election day itself went smoothly and peacefully.

Voting started slow when the polling places at Garapan Elementary School and Oleai Elementary School opened at 7am. A large number of voters came at 11am at both polling venues.

Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and first lady Diann Torres were making the rounds at two Republican Party tents near Garapan Elementary School and one tent near Oleai Elementary School.

Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) was also making the rounds at two Democratic Party tents near Garapan Elementary School and one tent near Oleai Elementary School.

After voting at Garapan Elementary School’s cafeteria, Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios, who is a Republican, walked with his wife toward the Republican Party tent. Some Republican lawmakers and supporters hugged and greeted him.

Palacios then walked to the adjacent Democratic Party tent where Magofna and other Democratic Party’s members and supporters welcome him.

Speculation is rife that Palacios will run as an independent gubernatorial candidate in next year’s election. Torres, who is the titular head of the Republic Party, has already announced his candidacy for re-election, with Sen. Vinnie Sablan (R-Saipan) as his running mate.

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 ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com

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