Rep. Christina Marie E. Sablan (D-Saipan), the Democratic Party’s candidate for governor in the November general election, said yesterday that she and her running mate, Rep. Leila Haveia Fleming C. Staffler (D-Saipan), are confident that they will be victorious in what is shaping out to be a three-way race.
“We’re running to win,” said the 40-year-old Sablan during her and Staffler’s first conference as a tandem at Island Café & Restaurant in Garapan.
In response to a question, Sablan said she learned a lot from losing during the CNMI Senate election in 2009. “I would say I probably learned more from losing that election [than] from winning other elections after that,” she said.
One thing she can say about loss, Sablan said, is that it teaches a person and that she learned so much about things she could have done better.
“When you run for office, you also have to meet people where they are and I just learned so much from that election, from that loss, and it made me stronger,” said Sablan, who is a member of the House of Representatives representing Precinct 2.
She said she took the lessons that she learned from that election, went on to do other things, then ran again for a House seat.
Sablan was first elected to the House in 2007, making her the youngest member of the 16th Legislature at the time. After her defeat in her Senate bid in 2009, she joined the staff of Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP), serving as his deputy communications director and outreach coordinator.
In 2018, she returned to the House as a Precinct 2 representative and was re-elected in 2020.
Sablan said she is excited to be running with Staffler, who is representing Precinct 5, for the Democratic Party’s ticket for governor and lieutenant governor.
In a playful turn during the press briefing, when asked who would be the CNMI’s first gentleman if she were to win and become the first woman governor in CNMI history, Sablan laughed and replied that she will put out a request for proposals, where applicants need to submit their qualifications and appear for appointments.
“That’s a major announcement I think,” said Sablan, laughing.
Staffler, 42, said she does have a husband, Mark Staffler. “And so he will be a second gentleman, I suppose,” said the smiling Staffler.
As to their next step after yesterday’s press conference, Sablan said the campaign kickoff will be tomorrow, Wednesday, with roadside waving at the Garapan Fishing Base at 4:45pm. and that the public is invited.
After the roadside waving and the kickoff event, the Democratic Party will be convening their committee and electing officers for the Committee to Elect Sablan and Staffler.
Sablan said they expect to start their campaign with house-to-house visits, and a lot of education about what they stand for, the platform that they will be rolling out.
She said the Democratic Party does have a platform and that she and Staffler worked very closely with their colleagues to develop it and that it was adopted in 2020.
“We are in the process now of updating and expanding that platform. And we’re looking forward to sharing that vision with the community and getting feedback about it as well,” she said.
As to what they offer differently from the other candidates, Sablan said she would say that she and Staffer are fresh faces in government and leadership.
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres is seeking re-election with Sen. Vinnie Vinson F. Sablan (R-Saipan) as his running mate under the Republican Party. Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios and Saipan Mayor David M. Apatang are running as governor and lieutenant governor, respectively, as independents.
Sablan said their ticket is historic in many ways, as it’s first time in CNMI history that two women are running together for the top leadership positions in office.
“We both bring experience and record of championing good governance in the Commonwealth for the last 15 years together as well as in our separate capacities,” Sablan said.
She said she has a planning background, while Staffler has 20 years of experience in public education.
Sablan said their administration will put education, healthcare, and infrastructure development as front and center in their platform and program they will be rolling out once elected.
Staffler said with respect to their backgrounds, they have had a lot of personal and career pathways that they’ve explored. “But we’ve also done a lot of community organizing together,” Staffler said.
She said part of the next steps forward that they want to focus on are making sure that get the input of the community on the priorities because change is a big step.
She said good governance is something that she and Sablan have always championed.
“It’s the reason why I have always followed her career. It’s the reason why I even decided to take this step toward public service,” Staffler said.
The lawmaker said education is a stable place to work, but that she sees that she would like to help the community in other ways and that’s part of why she decided to follow Sablan into this area.
“It’s really important that we have leaders who are willing to step out and so here we are,” Staffler said.