On January 9, former lieutenant governor Arnold Palacios (I) was inaugurated as the 10th governor of the Northern Mariana Islands along with the former mayor of Saipan, David Apatang (I) as the 13th lieutenant governor.
Governor Palacios gave a strong repudiation of the alleged corruption that plagued his predecessor Ralph Torres’ governorship. Although inauguration speeches are often conciliatory, Palacios sharply rebuked Torres, saying voters turned out in response to “the growing evidence of the squandering and swindling of tax dollars” and adding that “the people saw through the attempts to hide what greed and corruption had sown.”
Palacios went on to promise fiscal prudence built on a foundation of “frugality” and “liv[ing] within our means.” He promised to audit what he characterized as past financial indiscretions and missing money. Outlining his other priorities, Palacios promised to rework the Department of Public Safety and rebuild schools damaged by recent natural disasters.
Palacios’ road to the governorship has been an unusual one. Despite being Torres’ lieutenant governor in the previous cabinet, Palacios made the rare decision to run against Torres due to what he viewed as malfeasance in Torres’ term. Between Palacios’ declaration of his candidacy in October 2021 and the election in November 2022, Torres was inundated by numerous allegations of corruption and mishandling of public funds. The initial election was still not decisive though, and Palacios only emerged victorious in a runoff in late November.
Despite Palacios’ unique ascent, he promised a restoration of previous norms, committing to upholding democracy, transparency, and fiscal prudence. Only time will tell how he realize these promises over the next four years.