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Attorney, Private Practice 2000-present Former Senate Legal Counsel 1994-2000, Northern Marianas Commonwealth Legislature Chief Consultant, 1985 Northern Marianas Constitutional Convention

Friday, October 17, 2008

Jostling for Congress -- CNMI Delegate Roundup

In January, the CNMI will be represented in the halls of the U.S. Congress for the first time. Whomever we elect November 4 will vote in committee and rub shoulders with the 435 representatives from the 50 states as well as the other nonvoting delegates from Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the Virgin Islands.

More than anyone else, our delegate will be the CNMI's face in Washington, DC. In committee, our delegate will have the opportunity to engage in the typical, or traditional, horse-trading and log-rolling that oils the political machinery -- and potentially could influence any national policy.

It is a matter of leadership ... and judgment ... wisdom ... communication ... understanding of the issues ... initiative ... creative, innovative thinking ... respect for all ... courage ... independence from conventionalism ... self-liberation from traditional island politics ... commitment to service above self.

With just 17 days to go until the election, it is time for us all to take a good, hard look at the candidates and get informed.

Here they are in ballot order (with links to their websites and other sources providing insights into their candidacies):

Ballot #1: John Oliver Gonzales (Bolis)
Ballot #2: Chong Won
Ballot #3: David M. Cing (former Tinian Senator)
Ballot #4: John T. Lizama (former Superior Court judge)
Ballot #5: Pete A. Tenorio (incumbent)
Ballot #6: Luis P. Crisostimo (incumbent Senator sitting illegally)
Ballot #7: John H. Davis
Ballot #8: Gregorio C. Sablan (Kilili)
Ballot #9: Felipe Q. Atalig

Note: Some may question why I list Washington Representative Pete A. Tenorio as an "incumbent." This is because that is precisely what he is. Unlike Senator Luis Crisostimo, Pete A's term does not expire after "the term of the office sought" begins (CNMI Constitution, art. VIII, sec. 5). U.S. Public Law 110-229 and Article V, Section 2 of the Commonwealth Constitution make this clear.

Section 711 of U.S. Public Law 110-229 provides:
The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands shall be represented in the United States Congress by the Resident Representative to the United States authorized by section 901 of the Covenant To Establish a Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in Political Union With the United States of America (approved by Public Law 94–241 (48 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.)). The Resident Representative shall be a nonvoting Delegate to the House of Representatives, elected as provided in this subtitle.
(emphasis added)

The Commonwealth Constitution provides:
The term of office of the resident representative shall be ... four years. In the event that the United States confers the status of member or non-voting delegate in the United States Congress on the resident representative and such status requires a different term, the term of office of the resident representative shall be that required by such status.
Section 712 of U.S. Public Law 110-229 provides:
The Delegate shall be elected— ... at the Federal general election of 2008 and at such Federal general election every 2d year thereafter ... [and] ... [t]he term of the Delegate shall commence on the 3d day of January following the date of the election.
Thus, Pete A's term as Washington Representative, nominally slated to expire in January, 2010, was, pursuant to Article V, Section 2 of the Commonwealth Constitution, truncated, by U.S. Public Law 110-229, to expire January 3, 2009. On that date, the office mandated by Article V of the Commonwealth Constitution is redenominated as CNMI Delegate (or, more precisely, Resident Representative aka CNMI Delegate), as expressly mandated by the people of the CNMI in 1985 by ratifying Constitutional Amendement No. 24.

That makes Pete A an incumbent in this delegate election.


Some other links of note:

John H. Davis: A vision for a self-sufficient CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Oct. 9, 2008)

Saipan Tribune (Oct. 11, 2008): Economy, power crisis top priorities of delegate bets

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