Torres and Sablan: Northern Mariana Islands prepare for gubernatorial election
The Northern Mariana Islands will hold its gubernatorial election on November 8, 2022. Republican and current CNMI governor Ralph Torres will run for re-election. Territorial representative Tina Sablan will run as the Democratic Party nominee.
Torres, age 42, announced his vision to seek a second term on July 15, 2021. As the territory’s youngest governor to date, Torres was not short of controversies. In the summer of 2017, Torres and First Lady Diann went on a business trip to Montana for which he was later accused of appropriating $24,297 of government funds.
In 2018, Torres was again charged for receiving millions from Hong Kong-based Imperial Pacific casino. Such conduct led to a 2019 FBI investigation. Federal agents raided Torres’s properties for evidence of fraud and conspiracy. Following the search and seizure, the CNMI House of Representatives impeached Torres on six articles of charges. The trial lasted over two years. Torres was only acquitted in May 2021.
Though Torres was a firm Trump supporter since 2016, he also signed the CNMI Cannabis Act of 2018 to legalize marijuana.
Torres’s Democrat opponent, Tina Sablan, is currently a CNMI territorial representative and a former news reporter for KSPN2. She is the first woman nominated by a major party for Governor.
In a most recent conflict between the two candidates, Sablan criticized Torres’s failure to act on House Local Bill 22-245. Imperial Pacific, the same casino that paid Torres millions, failed to deliver $2 million of annual casino revenue to CNMI’s governmental funding as per the bill.
Sablan seeks to challenge Republican dominance in CNMI’s gubernatorial elections. No Democrats have been elected as governor since the election of 1998.
Since merging with the Covenant Party in 2013, CNMI’s Republican Party maintained an advantage over the Democrats. Though Democrats made gains in the House of Representatives, holding 11 out of 20 seats, Sablan should still expect a serious challenge from Torres in the November election.