The three nominees for the Northern Mariana Islands gubernatorial race were recently invited to a forum to discuss their candidacies on the Marianas Agupa Show. Two of the candidates, Representative Tina Sablan (D) and Lieutenant Governor Arnold Palacios (I), attended, but the incumbent governor Ralph Torres (R) did not. His absence led to significant criticism from activists who accused him of being afraid to answer questions about the numerous criminal charges he faces.
The candidates who did appear were first asked about their priorities for the first 100 days of their prospective term. Representative Sablan spoke about a transparent, ethical, and efficient government. She floated having applications for appointed positions, retraining employees in government ethics, and cutting down layers of bureaucracy to make government operations smoother. Next, she criticized the current government’s fiscal responsibility and promised an internal audit of both government spending and energy consumption. Lastly, she advocated for an economy more friendly to small businesses and promised to set up more initiatives to facilitate such. Lieutenant Governor Arnold Palacios spoke next and promised to find funding for retiree’s pensions, a problem that has plagued the government for the last few years. He then lambasted government infrastructure projects and promised to streamline future infrastructure endeavors. Lastly, he seconded Representative Sablan’s criticism of the government’s financial state, pledging to institute bipartisan committees on finance and performance metrics to emphasize department efficiency.
The candidates were then asked to compare themselves to their opponents and explain why they deserved the position of governor. Representative Sablan spoke about her unwavering commitment to public service and promised to put the community first. She criticized Governor Torres, who is currently involved in several court cases relating to alleged corruption, and pledged to be transparent and open about discretionary spending. Lieutenant Governor Palacios, on the other hand, spoke about his experience with public service. He pointed out that he and his running mate have both held high-level positions in government for decades, and each has been a public servant for forty years. He promised to use his experience to move the commonwealth forward in an efficient manner. Following his statement, both candidates took questions from Northern Mariana Islands’ voters.
Despite Governor Torres’ conspicuous absence from the forum, the program was a valuable opportunity to learn more about Representative Sablan and Lieutenant Governor Palacios’ governmental priorities and backgrounds. Voters will enter the general election in November more informed as a result.