Sablan-Staffler endorses Palacios-Apatang for runoff

Posted on Nov 10 2022

Rep. Christina E. Sablan (D-Saipan), left, and Rep. Leila Fleming Staffer (D-Saipan), concede and endorse the candidacies of Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios and Saipan Mayor David M. Apatang during a press conference at the Democratic Party headquarters on Middle Road yesterday afternoon. (LEIGH GASES)

The Democratic Party’s gubernatorial bet, Rep. Christina E. Sablan (D-Saipan), and her running mate, Rep. Leila Fleming Staffer (D-Saipan), immediately conceded yesterday and endorsed the independent team of Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios and his running mate, Saipan Mayor David M. Apatang for the runoff election.

In a press conference at the Democratic Party’s headquarters on Middle Road yesterday afternoon, Sablan and Staffler also thanked their supporters and congratulated their opponents “for the success of their respective campaigns as they head into the runoff.”

In her concession speech, Sablan said, “Most of the ballots have been counted by now and the writing is on the wall. It is not the outcome that Leila and I hoped for, but it is an outcome we accept.”

Sablan said that she and Fleming are asking all of their supporters to vote for Palacios and Apatang in the runoff. “They are the better choice. And they can surely expect that we will hold them to the same standards of honesty, fairness, and accountability that Leila and I hold ourselves to,” she added.

The long-awaited Commonwealth Election Commission’s unofficial tabulation results of the general elections show that the Palacios-Apatang tandem will be squaring off with Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and his running mate, Sen. Vinnie Vinson F. Sablan (R-Saipan), in the runoff.

When asked to elaborate on their decision to endorse Palacios, Sablan said, “We were the ticket running for real change and on a platform of good governance. And now that we are not going to be in ​​the runoff, the better option from our perspective is Arnold Palacios and David Apatang. We have good relationships with the lieutenant governor and with the mayor. I know both of them for a long time, I do have a lot of respect for their service. ​​And what is clear…to Leila and me is that we simply cannot afford another four years with Ralph Torres. So that is the choice that is before us, and the choice that we’re asking people to make—all of our supporters to make—is to support Arnold and Dave in the run-off.”

In their messages to their supporters, Staffler said they are humbled by the support and proud of the campaign “that we ran and the plans that we made. We are proud to have made history and put more cracks in that glass ceiling for the next woman or women who plan to run for this office…”

“To all of our dear, dear supporters, especially those who couldn’t vote yet—the youth of the CNMI—don’t lose faith, we cannot lose hope. We cannot lose hope that good governance can exist in the Marianas. It just might take more time to get there. And we need all of you, our whole community, to keep pushing for the change that we want to see. As for me, I’ll be here for the long haul, doing whatever that I can do, so that I can leave this place better than I found it,” Fleming said.

Sablan thanked their supporters as well: “From the bottom of our hearts, we also thank our incredible team of supporters, volunteers, donors, Democratic Party leaders, and fellow candidates, as well as our families for an amazing campaign. It was clean, issue-driven and spirited. It was fun. It was inspiring. It was historic in many ways. We ran on a platform of good governance. And we did it with love for islands, and a hopeful vision for our future.”

She counseled their supporters not to despair. “Don’t lose hope. Keep the faith and get out and vote. Beyond the runoff election, and regardless of the results, our Commonwealth needs us all to continue to fight the good fight. Fight the good fight for a future we can be proud of,” said Sablan.

Both Sablan and Staffler said their efforts will not end with the election. “Our hearts are here, we will serve out the remainder of our terms as legislators and we thank the people of the Marianas, and especially the people…who have given us the great honor of representing them. We will seek other ways to serve our community after our terms have ended.”

As for the prolonged ballot counting that took place, Sablan said that many who have been watching the election very closely have been dismayed by how long it took to get all of the ballots counted.

“And there are still some discrepancies, I think, in the numbers that have been reported, and a lot of confusion about what the final tallies are for each of the candidates. And I don’t understand—I really don’t understand why—why we still have glitches like this in our election process when we do this every two years.”

Sablan believes it is important that the CNMI revisit an issue about the lack of standard operating procedures at the Commonwealth Election Commission.

“I know we bring it up every two years, every time there’s an election, and that still hasn’t been developed yet. …But part of ensuring the fairness and freedom of an election is also making sure that the information is accurate, and that the public can trust the process as a result. So there’s definitely some room for improvement…”

The CEC’s website, votecnmi,, shows as of press time, its listing of the election results “are currently under review.”

Leigh Gases
Leigh Gases is the youngest reporter of Saipan Tribune and primarily covers community related news, but she also handles the utilities, education, municipal, and veterans beats. Contact Leigh at
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