CNMI Headed For 3 Elections, 2 Of Them On Same Day

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Special election and runoff, registered voters should exceed 17,000

By Haidee V. Eugenio

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, August 4, 2014) – Besides the general elections on Nov. 6, the CNMI is headed for a special election for a third Saipan senatorial seat on the same day and a likely gubernatorial runoff race a few days later if none of those seeking the highest elected post gets at least 50 percent plus one of the votes cast, officials told Saipan Tribune.

Independent gubernatorial candidate Heinz S. Hofschneider and his running mate, Senate floor leader Ray Yumul (Ind-Saipan), filed their candidacies on Friday, setting the stage for a four-way gubernatorial race.

As of Saturday, over 72 individuals have filed their candidacies.

The number of registered voters is also expected to breach the 17,000 mark in a few weeks.

If and when Yumul’s candidacy is certified by the election board, tentatively set for Aug. 13, the Senate would have to inform Gov. Eloy S. Inos that there is a vacancy in the Senate for a Saipan seat and a special election would be held, Senate President Ralph Torres (R-Saipan) and Commonwealth Election Commission executive director Robert A. Guerrero, along with Sen. Pete Reyes (Ind-Saipan), separately said yesterday.

Guerrero said the required resignation is spelled out in the NMI Constitution.

Article 13 Section 5 of the NMI Constitution reads, "Resignation from Public Office. An elected public official shall resign from office upon certification to be a candidate for another public office, if the term of the office sought begins before the end of the term of the office held."

Right now, two of three Saipan senatorial seats are up for grabs: that of Torres and Reyes’ seats. Yumul’s seat will be vacant once his candidacy is certified and then once the governor declare such a vacancy, requiring a special election to fill it up.

"If there’s a vacancy declared by the governor, it would be best to have that special election also on the day of the general elections in terms of logistics and costs," Guerrero said, adding that each election costs $80,000 to $90,000.

Guerrero and senators, moreover, said it is more than likely that none of the four gubernatorial teams will muster at least 50 percent plus one of the votes cast, so a runoff election will be held.

"So yes, the CNMI could have three elections, and two of them would be held on the same day of Nov. 6, assuming that Yumul’s candidacy as lieutenant governor is certified this month," Guerrero said.

Heinz-Yumul filing

The Hofschneider-Yumul team was originally set to file their candidacy tomorrow, a day before the Aug. 6 deadline for filing, campaign treasurer Juan S. Tenorio said.

However, when a Senate session was called on Friday afternoon for Tuesday on Rota and Yumul had to travel to Rota on Monday, the Hofschneider-Yumul camp decided to file earlier—on Friday afternoon, Tenorio added. The team was concerned that should there be a problem with delayed or lack of flights from Rota to Saipan after the session is held, Yumul may not be able to come back to Saipan in time for the original scheduled filing and could miss the Aug. 6 deadline.

Tenorio said in the process, the Hofschneider-Yumul camp was unable to inform the media beforehand of the change of filing schedule. Thus, no reporter was present at their actual filing of petitions and candidacy, unlike during the three other gubernatorial team’s filings. The Hofschneider-Yumul team said they would share photos later.

The three other gubernatorial teams are: Gov. Eloy S. Inos and Senate President Ralph Torres (R-Saipan) of the Republican Party; Edward "Tofila" M. Deleon Guerrero and his running mate Danny Quitugua of the Democratic Party; and former governor Juan N. Babauta and running mate Juan Torres, running as independent.

Tinian candidates

On Friday, Tinian Mayor Ramon "Ray" Dela Cruz filed his re-election candidacy, surrounded by his family and supporters.

"When I took office, I inherited over $5 million in municipality debt. I was able to bring that down to some $2 million; I retired some $3 million in debt, especially to local vendors. …There have been a lot of advances made and I plan to continue the positive things we have started," Dela Cruz said.

The Tinian candidates he is aligned with also filed their candidacies: incumbent Rep. Trenton Conner (Ind-Tinian) who is seeking a Tinian senatorial seat; incumbent Sen. Joaquin "Jack" Borja (Ind-Tinian) seeking another term; and former representative Edwin Aldan seeking to regain his former post.

Three candidates for the Tinian Municipal Council also filed their candidacies: Edwin Hofschneider, Diana H. Borja, and Raynaldo M. Cing.

Saipan candidates

Former representative David Apatang also filed his petition on Friday afternoon as a candidate for Saipan mayor, surrounded by his family and supporters.

Apatang is also supported by the family of the late Saipan mayor Donald Flores, who recently passed away.

Derron Flores said that Apatang approached their family days after the funeral rites for his father, seeking their support and vowing to continue what his father started.

"We’re happy to support him," said Derron Flores, who was among those at Apatang’s filing.

Independent House candidates for Precinct 3 also filed their candidacies on Friday, including incumbent Rep. Ralph Yumul (Ind-Saipan) and Rep. Tony Benavente (Ind-Saipan), along with current senior legislative assistant at the House BJ Attao.

Election Commission’s Guerrero said there were also filings on Saturday, bringing to "over 72" the number of individuals that filed their candidacies as of Saturday.

"And we expect to breach the 17,000 voters mark in the next few weeks," Guerrero added.

Among those that filed on Saturday was Ed Propst, seeking a House seat representing Precinct 1.

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