SAIPAN — It wasn't exactly a "blue wave," but it was a rising "blue tide" nonetheless as eight Northern Mariana Islands Democrats and their two Independent allies won seats in the 20-member House of Representatives. They also claimed a Saipan Senate seat that was last won by a Democrat in 2003.
The Republicans retained nine of the 13 House seats they won in 2018 while one Independent aligned with the GOP, Joseph Flores of Precinct 1, was also reelected.
This means that the Democratic and Republican blocs in the House will each have 10 seats.
Over 500 absentee ballots have yet to be received and counted, but they are not expected to alter the results in any of the races. Although in the Precinct 3 House race, Republican Rep. Ralph Yumul, who is in sixth place, leads seventh-place finisher Corina Magofna, a Democrat, by just 35 votes.
Commonwealth Election Commission administrative officer Kayla Igitol said the CEC board will tabulate the absentee ballots on Nov. 17 and certify the results.
Overall voter turnout was around 60%.
In the Senate race, former Labor Secretary Edith Deleon Guerrero, the Democratic candidate, edged out the Republican incumbent, Sixto Igisomar.
Deleon Guerrero garnered 5,133 votes, while Igisomar received 4,888.
In the Precinct 1 House race, Edwin Propst, who resigned his seat last October, placed first to win another term. It was not known, however, if he will accept the voters' mandate. If he declines to serve, a special election will be held to fill his seat.
Three other prominent Democratic critics of the governor and his Republican administration also coasted to victory: Rep. Tina Sablan in Precinct 2, Celina R. Babauta in Precinct 1 and Leila Staffler in Precinct 5.
On Rota, the lone minority member, Sen. Paul A. Manglona, defeated his young Republican opponent, Dennis C. Mendiola, the governor's fire commissioner.
The GOP's Rota House candidate, Barry Toves, likewise lost to incumbent Rep. Donald Manglona.
The two Manglonas are Independents aligned with the Democrats.
On Tinian, however, the Republican Senate and House candidates won.
On Saipan, the Republican House members who lost were Precinct 1's Roman C. Benavente and LJ Castro who sought reelection as an Independent; Precinct 3's Marco Peter and Jose Itibus; and Precinct 5's Lorenzo I. Deleon Guerrero, the current House vice speaker.
'The people won'
NMI Democratic Party Vice Chairman Danny Quitugua said it is the people of the commonwealth who won the election.
The results, he said, reflect the concerns of the people regarding their government.
"That has been the driving force behind the candidates of the NMI Democratic Party who want to be given the opportunity to serve the people and do what is best for them," he added.
Quitugua said he has been helping rebuild the local Democratic Party for many years, and this year's elections show that the people want their government to be "much better, more trusted and transparent."
He added, "I am very grateful for the outcome. A lot of people worked together to do what is necessary and what needs to be done."
The last time the NMI Democratic Party won a legislative seat was in 2007.
"It was very difficult to win elections until this very moment," Quitugua said.
"And again, I cannot be more graciously thankful to the people of the commonwealth for making this decision."
Senator-elect Edith Deleon Guerrero, who placed fifth in the five-person senatorial election in 2018, said she was very humbled by the support of the people who want to see change, and a government that is honest and responsible.
"I love our island and I love our people," she said, adding that the victory of the NMI Democratic Party is in the best interest of the commonwealth and its people.
Rota Sen. Paul A. Manglona, who has been a lawmaker since 1988, said the clear message from the people is that their government needs more accountability and transparency, "especially in these critical and challenging times."
He said he strongly believes that the winning Democratic and Independent candidates will place public interest over their personal interest.
He thanked those who have given him another opportunity to serve them for another term.
Representative-elect Celina Babauta said, "Our votes are a declaration of our values and I am deeply honored by the community of Precinct 1 for placing their trust in me to represent their collective voices."
She added, "Undeniably, my success is your success, too. So congratulations to you and your families yan humitde na agradesimiento para todos I man patisipao ya ma exisisa i direchon niha ya man man bota."
She said the actions she may take "as a contributing member of the 22nd House of Representatives will represent a symbol of public authority and your trust. I encourage all elected officials regardless of political affiliation to set irrelevant differences aside and work toward helping lift our people out of hardship."
U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, an Independent who caucuses with the national Democrats, ran unopposed to secure a seventh term.
From the GOP
In a statement, the NMI Republican Party congratulated all the election winners.
"There is a lot of work ahead and we need all elected leaders to work together to resolve our ongoing challenges and to continue moving the commonwealth forward for our community," the GOP stated.
"To all our supporters, Un Dañgkulu na Si Yu'us Ma'ase yan Ghilisou for journeying with us throughout this election cycle. Our commitment to continue working hard with the ongoing efforts to keep our island communities safe and to bring us out of our current challenges remain. We ask for your continued support throughout this journey.
"To our people of the commonwealth, thank you for exercising your civic duty. Democracy is the fundamental bedrock of a healthy and free society and we thank you all for your participation in this election.
"Let us continue to keep our communities safe and remain focused on working together to further strengthen our resiliency and in building a stronger and sustainable commonwealth.
"We love you, Marianas. En sen guiya hamyo todos. Un Guinaiya. Un Familia. Tipiyeew!"