This is the third of a five-part series, where Kandit brings to you biographical information on five democrats rumored to be contenders for the party’s nomination for governor of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. According to Democratic Party of the NMI chairwoman Nola Hix, as of the evening of Saturday, October 23, three qualified voters of the CNMI have submitted letters of intent to seek the party’s nomination for governor. Ms. Hix said November 1, 2021 is the deadline for interested candidates to submit their letters of interest to her in order to be considered to be the party’s nominee for governor in next year’s election. The party will announce its nominee by November 4.
The Mariana Islands will benefit from its first urban planner as chief executive of the CNMI if Commonwealth voters elect Rep. Tina Sablan to become their next governor. The democrat from Saipan is rumored to be a contender for the Democratic Party of the NMI’s nomination for the post.
Kandit’s relationship with the people of the Northern Mariana Islands began with an accidental encounter with Ms Sablan over the phone. A couple days after the federal raids on Gov. Ralph Torres, we decided to cover the story (our first involving the CNMI), and I thought, ‘I’m going to call Ed Propst to get his reaction.’
I did not know Mr. Propst at the time, but I remember seeing his comments critical of Mr. Torres. So, I called his office. The phone rang and rang, then was forwarded, and a woman answered. I explained I wanted to speak with Mr. Propst, and I told her what it was about and that I intended to call the other members of the legislature to get their comments on the raids. On live feed, she introduced herself as ‘Tina Sablan,’ and agreed to do the interview right then and there.
She expressed her disgust of corruption. She explained to Kandit and to our viewing audience from Guam that if a federal judge had signed a warrant, it meant there was a preponderance of evidence of crimes committed, and that the governor must answer for this. She talked about the sad state of affairs and the need to restore integrity to the people’s government. When she was done talking, I knew right then and there that Kandit would get involved from that day forward in covering news in the Commonwealth.
There was passion and sincerity in her voice. Few others in elected office bear the signature of light and compassion for the truth and justice as Ms. Sablan does. Her understanding of issues and ability to articulate them are surpassed by few in our islands. Her fearless venture into unpopular topics that challenge the status quo and upset the oligarchy and well-established traditions that are unjust is refreshing, to state the least.
These traits resonate and resound in her interrogation of Torres administration officials in the corruption hearings spearheaded by the House Judiciary and Governmental Operations Committee, where she is a member. From point to point, the congresswoman has linked facts and testimony ever closer to a political indictment – or impeachment – of the governor.
Among legislation she has authored in this term alone include measures to get rid of special privileges legislators had been getting at the expense of the taxpayer, to provide thousands of dollars annually in earned income credits to the working poor of the Commonwealth, to increase funding for medical and health care, and to help residents needing medical referral assistance.
Ms. Sablan presently chairs the Committee on Health and Welfare, which has jurisdiction over public health, healthcare, environmental protection, and social welfare programs of the Commonwealth. She is also Vice Chair of the House Committee on Gaming, and a member of the House Committee on Judiciary and Governmental Operations.
She was first elected to the CNMI House in 2007, and was the youngest member of the legislature and one of just two women in the House at the time. She was elected again to the House in 2018 and 2020, and is today one of six women in the House leadership. Prior to her current term in the legislature, she worked for the CNMI’s Delegate to U.S. Congress, Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, and before that as a local news reporter on Saipan.
The congresswoman recently was appointed by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan to represent the Territories on EPA’s Local Government Advisory Committee – Small Communities Advisory Subcommittee, which consists of local government officials who advise the Administrator on critical environmental issues impacting communities across the nation.
She holds a master’s degree in urban and regional planning from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.