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OPINION | Why I'm running as a Democrat and why the CNMI needs a two-party system

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Dearest Friends,

In case you did not see the press release in Wednesday’s paper, I have decided to run as a Democrat in this November’s election, along with my House Minority colleagues, Reps Tina Sablan, Sheila Babauta, and Richard Lizama.  Rep. Donald Manglona from Rota also announced that he is running as an Independent aligned with the Democrats, and is in full support of the Democratic team. Rep. Edmund Villagomez is running as an Independent and we will continue to work together and support each other as a family. We respect each other's decisions as we seek re-election, and we hope we have earned your trust as public servants. I am so very proud of our Minority team and love and respect them beyond words.

Before I explain to you why I'm running as a Democrat and why the CNMI is in dire need of a two-party or maybe even ten-party system, I want to thank you on behalf of myself and my family for allowing me to represent you. I continue to work for you, and have never forgotten my role and why you put me in this position. While my family and I have made financial sacrifices since I became a representative and I have grown used to making a much smaller salary than I did as a federally funded program manager at Head Start, we adapt and endure and embrace the fact that there is more to life than money, and that public service comes with sacrifice. I am the same guy who fought against 80% salary increases for myself and my colleagues, never took an allowance or a bribe or kickback, and continue to be a fiscal conservative when it comes to spending taxpayer dollars. You deserve to know how your government leaders spend your taxpayer dollars, whether it is local or federal funding.

So, why Democrat? For starters, I want to see an end to a one-party rule that we have had to endure for many decades. Monopolies that rule businesses or governments are never a good thing. Giving our people options and providing checks and balances is crucial to democracy. And I welcome more than just a two-party system. Democracies should have multiple parties, and a wide array of options. But I am focusing my time and energy into rebuilding the CNMI Democratic Party, the "People's Party," and I hope you will join us. This party can be as successful as we will it to be. And what I appreciate is that we can be very open-minded within the Democratic Party. What we are focused on are core principles and a platform that ultimately puts people first and special interests last. Within the CNMI Democratic Party, there are lively debates, and differences of opinion, because that is where democracy thrives. To be progressive is to challenge the status quo and to realize that change is a part of life, but that change must be for the betterment of our people, our community, our future.

In the CNMI Democratic Party, your beliefs and ideas matter, so long as they do not infringe on a person's rights and are not disrespectful to one's race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion or non-religion. Everyone has a seat at the table, and we welcome you, because YOU are the change we've been waiting for.

Can you be a conservative and a Democrat? Of course. I am a fiscal conservative who continues to question government runaway spending, most especially when government funds are misused and abused. I believe in a government that lives within its means and have spoken out against the overspending we've seen in the last three fiscal years, where the CNMI government ran a deficit, even despite the outpouring of money coming in from the casino industry and federal disaster assistance and reimbursements.

The CNMI Democratic Party is bigger than any one person. There may be a person you don't agree with, or like. That is to be expected. But I ask that you look beyond personalities and focus on the principles of growing a party that will offer solutions to our current problems and will happily discuss and debate the issues affecting all of us. Will you join us? I certainly hope you will.

Perhaps one of the greatest challenges in the CNMI we all have had to endure for far too long is a climate of fear. There is retribution for speaking out against government, and it comes in the form of losing one's job. That practice of intimidation has to end. Jobs should not be dependent on a person's loyalty, but on a person's merit and performance.

On behalf of my wife Daisy and our children, I thank you for your love and support. I continue to work for you. You matter. And this government belongs to you and your family. These are my core beliefs, and it shall never change. Undangkulu na si Yu'us ma'ase, Ghilissow, Maraming Salamat po, thank you!

 

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