We have an election to vote in this week. The field is less inspiring that many of us would like. Nonetheless, it is important to vote, to choose the lesser of evils, the more capable, the more likely to lead.
The following are my OPINIONS only.
I've been in Saipan for nearly 25 years (that anniversary comes 11/30). I've voted in every election since I got here.
I hate it when any U.S. citizen who lives here talks as if she has no interest, right, or responsibility to vote in local elections. I hate it even more when they claim ignorance. (These are mostly haoles, like me.) It's important that we exercise this freedom, that we educate ourselves. And it's the lowest form of arrogance and lack of commitment to community that leads eligible voters to slack off and fail to vote. I guess, I feel more disgust toward the non-voters than I do toward even our worst candidate.
I also hear a lot of reasons from various people about what influences their decisions. Some try to guess in advance who is likely to win--they want to be part of the winner's circle. They want to back a winner. I think this is stupid and irrational. This is not a horse-race. It's not a popularity contest. And deciding to vote because everyone else is going that way is not much better than not voting at all. I think every voter should make up his or her own mind and follow his or her own conscience in choosing whom to vote for.
There is a strong pull to vote for family members. I understand this. Family members are people we love, people we know, people to whom we owe family loyalty and devotion and respect. And candidates do need to know they have family support, or they'll never be able to withstand the pressures and temptations of public office. So I don't think this concept should be discounted completely. But I do think it is just one factor to consider and shouldn't be the only factor, or even the most important factor. If all other factors were equal, then I could see choosing the closest family member.
But it's rare that all other factors are equal. What are those factors? This is a difficult list to comprise. I like intelligent and honest candidates; but I also want those who tend to lean in the same political direction that I do (which is toward the liberal side that respects civil rights, promotes equality, relies on education, and protects the environment, and places these considerations above personal wealth, which is often wrapped up in the name of the "economy," and ahead of personal ambition).
So my assessment of some of our candidates for office?
Fitial-Inos. (Covenant) I see Fitial as intelligent but less than honest. He's in favor of shutting off public access to information about the workings of government. He elevates the needs of individual businessmen above the rights of workers. He has an angle with a profit motive for every problem. I don't see him as a leader so much as a profiteer who wants the power and position to increase his own wealth and situation. He would be at the bottom of my list for Governor; and there is nothing about Inos that makes me want to vote for the ticket.
Juan Pan Guerrero-Camacho. (Independent) Juan Pan is another businessman who has been very willing to take from the CNMI government whatever he could. His recruitment deals for his company Paras Enterprises have been riddled with questions, both for public agency deals and private recruitment scandals. His contributions to the Red Cross do not cancel or outweigh his history. I don't see him as friendly toward rights or equality or the environment. Running-mate JJ Camacho is smart and educated and has a public record of voting. He's been very good at sharing information and making the House record accessible, and this is his great contribution. But I disagree with nearly every vote he's made. He's a backer of Fitial's agenda. To me, a vote for this team is the same as a vote for Fitial-Inos. And that would be a no.
Ray Guerrero-Borja. (Independent) Uncle Ray is family. That said, in all honesty, I don't think he's got the imagination or ideas to address the challenges of the office. Recycling his old slogan is an example of how worn-out he seems. Borja is a bright spot on the ticket. I think he's intelligent and capable. But he's not enough. I'd rather see this ticket prevail, though, than either Fitial-Inos or Pan Guerrero-Camacho, despite the extreme unlikelihood of that happening.
Hofschneider-Palacios. (Republican) Heinz has been in the CNMI Legislature a long time and we don't have all that much good to show from his work. Same for Arnold. Heinz has brains, but often fails to listen to other intelligent voices. Arnold cares little for the environment and would just as soon see his own interests take precedence. Despite the weaknesses of this team, though, I think they offer the best of a bad lot. I think Heinz appreciates the need for open government; and both could work hard to balance the extremely divergent interests of our community.
Senator from Saipan We're supposed to vote for two:
CAMACHO, Paul William (Independent) I know very little about this candidate. Most notably missing from his webpage bio is his education. We need smart, educated public officials. Even his experience is a bit thin. I'm not impressed. This is a likely no for me.
CRUZ, Gregorio Sanchez (Independent) Greg has gained notoriety of sorts for his Taotao Tano. I admire his willingness to stick his neck out, to complain, to demand answers, to be a loud mouth. But there's also some question whether his opinions are his own, or whether he's just the puppet. And again, what educational qualifications do we have here? This is a likely no for me.
SABLAN, Christina Marie Elise (Independent) Summa cum laude from College of Santa Fe. A term of experience in the House. The ability to articulate issues and generate discussions on hot issues; the ability to listen as others speak; the ability to open doors and documents for public view; the desire and attention to public rights and the environment. We are so lucky to have Tina as a candidate. I hope she wins by a landslide. YES, YES, YES. (Can I give her both of my votes?)
TEREGEYO, Ana Sablan (Covenant) She's on facebook, but mostly she's from a generation that has retired. I respect Ana Teregeyo and know she's intelligent. I disagree with her politics and even where I don't, I think she's not going to bring the energy and vision we need to the CNMI Senate. For me-a no.
KAIPAT, Jacinta Matagolai (Covenant) She's educated (holding a law degree) and intelligent, and cares about the environment. She's on Facebook and has a unique grasp of both modern technology and the best of our cultural history. But she also supports Governor Fitial's vision of a segregated work-force, with foreign workers consigned to low pay and no rights--a two-tiered system that is a violation of civil liberties and an evil. And she's blind to the problems of this labor system. I can't support her candidacy.
QUITUGUA, Justo Songao (Democrat) He's intelligent and educated, and has been an educator himself. He has experience in the House and has authored bills promoting different kinds of education reform--a mixed bag in my opinion. The good being to promote vocational training in our public schools; the less good to give money to Tony Pellegrino for his private business ventures to do similarly. He failed to support the national marine monument; and he hasn't been much in favor of civil rights. He's a Democrat in name, and we could use a few more of those in our local politics, but I'm on the fence here.
REYES, Pete Pangelinan (Republican) He's intelligent and values education, giving us his intelligent and educated children. He's also been in the Senate a very long time, so knows the ropes. On the other hand, his very experience also counts somewhat against him--we need change. We need a different kind of leadership that depends less on entrenched politics and more on deep thinking and analysis. I'm on the fence here, too.
TORRES, Ralph Anthony Deleon Guerrero (Republican) Aack. He's young, intelligent, and educated--and more caught up in the old-boys network and hardening-of-the-arteries thinking than most of the old-timers. I see nothing positive from his time in the House and nothing that makes me think he's a leader. He's got a well-oiled machine, and there is nothing good I can say about that kind of politics. For me-a definite no.
Mayor of Saipan.
CAMACHO, Antonio Muna (Independent) Old style politician. Pleasant and friendly and smart. But too long out of the loop. Not my choice.
TENORIO, Lino Sablan (Independent) A lackluster career at DPS. Not my choice.
BENAVENTE, Roman Cepeda (Independent) Smart, friendly, and caring. A history of public service. If Angelo weren't in the race, I'd consider him for the job.
SANCHEZ, Jose Deleon Guerrero (Independent) I know little about him. He's a former educator, so I'm guessing he's intelligent, but not my choice.
DEMAPAN, Juan Sablan (Independent) Supports casino gambling in Saipan. Too much baggage of questionable nature. (I couldn't find the link to the Tinian school construction debacle.) A definite no.
TAMAN, Candido Babauta (Independent)Good singer. Opposed the national marine monument. I think he supports Fitial. We need a different kind of voice, imho. No for senate.
TUDELA, Marian Deleon Guerrero (Covenant) Intelligent. Director of Upward Bound; but bound to the Covenant party and Fitial's views. That would be a no for me.
VILLAGOMEZ, Angelo O’Connor (Democrat). Intelligent, educated, and dedicated to environmental concerns. He's got loads of energy and vision. He's done a lot to organize people and protect our environment. This would be a big YES in my book.
FLORES, Donald Glenn (Republican) Intelligent, educated. I sometimes like his letters in the newspapers. But I'm worried that he's going to promote business interests, not human interests. There's a difference. I'm not against business--but I think we need government to be on the side of people, or, at the very least, neutral when it comes to the differences between business interests and human interests and needs.
House-Precinct 5: Vote for 2
MENDIOLA, Joseph Muna (Independent)--I don't know much about this guy. He doesn't seem to have a lot of education or a track record that makes me want to go out and vote for him. Any one else have more details?
DELEON GUERRERO, Frederick Peters (Independent) He's too close to Covenant for me.
QUITUGUA, Daniel Ogo (Covenant)--Not my party. That would be no. And to be clear, I don't usually care what party a candidate is. I'll vote for whomever I think is best. But I see the Covenant party members as lining up behind Fitial's agenda, and I disagree with that so vehemently, I can't support any of these Covenant candidates (or the independents who are Covenant in disguise).
BASA, Ramon Sablan (Covenant)--Not my party.(See note above) That would be no.
BRUNDIDGE Jr., Willie Lee (Democrat)--He's got a job now. I see no reason to want him in the House.
TORRES, Jesse David Jones (Democrat). I love his letters to the editor in the newspapers and his support of community projects. I think he's got the brains, education, energy and values that I want in a Congressman. That would be YES!
DEMAPAN, Jose Sablan (Republican). Did he buy a counterfeit diploma from a Spokane diploma mill? I'm not otherwise sure of his background. DPW-right? I'm hesitant to vote for him.
SANTOS, Rosemond Blanco (Republican) Rosemond is definitely smart and educated. I'm disappointed in her performance this past term. Too many absences from voting sessions. Nothing much I agreed with, except her vote for the budget.
Well, express your opinions here--or at the ballot box where it really counts.