The United States recently witnessed one of the most contentious midterm elections in modern American history. Not only did candidates with differing policy proposals compete head-to-head for leadership positions across the country, but the very ideologies that the Democratic and Republican parties represent battled it out on November 8. The Northern Mariana Islands’ gubernatorial election was no different.
Last Tuesday, the incumbent Republican governor Ralph Torres stood for reelection to a second term. Torres ran against two qualified challengers: Independent Arnold Palacios, who serves as the current lieutenant governor under Torres, and Democrat Tina Sablan, a member of the territory’s House of Representatives.
The election came to be close, with Torres receiving 38.8% of the vote and Palacios earning 32.2%. The election has moved to a runoff scheduled for November 25, when these two candidates will face off again. Sablan was eliminated from the race after claiming a mere 28%, raising questions about the Democratic Party’s strategy.
Historically, the Democratic Party has had little influence on CNMI elections. In 2014, the gubernatorial election ended with a runoff between Republican Elay Songao Inos and Independent Heinz Hofschneider. That year, Democratic candidate Edward Masga Deleon Guerrero reeled in only 3.92% of the vote in the general election. Democrats performed significantly better in this year’s gubernatorial election when compared to 2014 and 2018, in which their candidate withdrew from the race altogether. Still, favor lies in more right-wing candidates.
Although this has been another year of defeat for the Democratic Party of the islands, November 25 still holds a close race. Will incumbent Ralph Torres hold onto his seat as governor for another four years or will his position be assumed by a new figure, who will lead the territory in a new direction? The people will find out this week.