SAIPAN – Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios and Saipan Mayor David M. Apatang on Thursday formally announced their candidacies for governor and lieutenant governor of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, vowing to rebuild the people's trust in the government.
Prior to the announcement of the Arnold-Dave, or AD 2022 slate, the two candidates and their supporters held a roadside wave at the Minatchom Adao on Beach Road in Susupe, Saipan, at 2 p.m.
Among those who joined them were three Republican CNMI House members: Vice Speaker Blas Jonathan Attao, House Floor Leader Ralph N. Yumul and Rep. John Paul Sablan.
Also attending the political gathering were Commonwealth Ports Authority board members Pete P. Reyes and Thomas Villagomez, former Gov. Benigno R. Fitial, former Speakers Oscar M. Babauta and Pedro "Paduna" Deleon Guerrero, former Sen. John "Morgen" Tenorio, former Reps. John "Liling" Reyes, Roman C. Benavente, Janet Maratita, Clyde Norita and Jesus Attao, former Saipan Mayor Marianne DLG Tudela and independent Saipan mayoral candidate Ramon Blas "RB" Camacho.
Former Speaker Babauta is the chairman of the AD 2022 campaign committee, while Pete P. Reyes is the vice chairman.
‘It was not easy’
In his remarks, Palacios said he and Apatang were "very humbled that many of you have taken the time to join us today."
He added, "Many of you have asked us in the past what our decision is going to be. Many of you encouraged us. We took a lot of time to reflect on our decision. It was not easy. We have to reflect on the challenges we will be facing and we are taking you along with us and the responsibility for a long campaign. I also reflected [on] how it is going to impact my relationship as lieutenant governor with the governor, today," Palacios said.
In 1997, then Democratic Gov. Froilan C. Tenorio and his lieutenant governor, Jesus C. Borja, both ran for governor in a three-way race that was won by the Republican candidate, Pedro P. Tenorio.
Palacios said he and the Saipan mayor made the decision after meeting with many family members.
"We have now decided … to give our community an alternative to the present system that we are in. ... We can no longer keep quiet,” he added. “Our people have lost a lot of confidence in the people that run our government."
Palacios said it would be a challenge to rebuild the trust and the confidence of the people in their government.
Apatang said the problem is too big to ignore, adding, "It negatively affects already limited public budgets and helps organized groups do their dirty work.”
He said recent events “have made it clear that the scale of the problem is serious.”
Apatang said he is seeking a higher public office “guided by my philosophy of serving others with honesty, integrity and transparency, and putting leadership skills I have gained throughout my career to work in the service of others.”
He said his service as a combat veteran, legislator and mayor for many years has given him the opportunity to personally interact with community members during their most difficult moments.
"The challenges we are facing with this pandemic put (a) stronger focus on making sure that taxpayers’ money is not wasted through dishonesty or other financial mismanagement,” he said. “Leaders must avoid becoming entrenched in self-interest and making decision on matters that are inconsistent with our morals and values."
Apatang said the people “deserve leaders that are trustworthy. We deserve a commonwealth that is clean, safe and vibrant, where we can expect economic growth without sacrificing our cultural and social values.”
The mayor said he and Palacios are embarking on "a mission to restore the trust in our government."
"Lt. Gov. Palacios and I are willing to lead this endeavor, but we need your help,” he added. “As Gandhi once said, 'Be the change you want to see in the world.' We must be the change we want to see in our commonwealth.”
Palacios and Apatang will be running next year against their fellow Republicans, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and Senate Floor Leader Vinnie F. Sablan.
The NMI Democratic Party, whose leaders have said they are open to a possible alliance with AD 2022, is conducting its own selection process for the gubernatorial election.