On November 25, 2022, the Northern Mariana Islands held a runoff for their gubernatorial election after no candidate received a majority of the vote. On November 8—the general election—incumbent governor Ralph Torres (R) received 38.8 percent of the vote, while his challengers Lieutenant Governor and Independent Arnold Palacios garnered 33.2 percent and Democrat Tina Sablan accumulated 28%, being eliminated from the race entirely.
Contrary to Torres’ five percent lead ahead of Palacios during the general election, the governor lost by nine percent in the scheduled runoff, granting Palacios the election victory with 54 percent of the vote to become the Northern Mariana Islands’ tenth governor.
The jump in votes cast for Palacios can be attributed to the islands’ Democratic voters showcasing support in the runoff for the independent and more moderate candidate, especially after Palacios received support from Democratic candidate Tina Sablan for the runoff. Torres’ loss came after impeachment charges were brought against him by the CNMI House in January 2022 after an investigation into a wealth of scandals during his term, including misuse of government funds.
As Palacios begins his term next year, it will be interesting to see if and how, as a moderate, he will unite both the Republican and Democratic parties on the Islands — in terms of values and policies. With the growing threat of climate change and natural disasters on the Islands, the people are asking one question—will Palacios deliver?
The inauguration is set to be January 9, 2023, on which Arnold Palacios will become the Islands’ first independent leader.