Variations | ‘Heated’ elections and other news 46 years ago

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IN 1974, while the Covenant negotiations with the U.S. were still ongoing, the (Northern) Marianas District of the U.S.-administered Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands held two elections.

In June, voters on Saipan elected the 15 members of their municipal council and 11 village commissioners. The Popular Party (today’s Democratic Party) swept the elections. The Territorials (now known as the Republicans) did not win a single race.

In November, NMI voters were back at the polling centers, this time to elect their Congress of Micronesia senator and three House members. The Territorial Party won three of the four seats. Only one Popular Party candidate squeaked through: Herman R. Guerrero who defeated future Gov. Pedro P. Tenorio by four votes. (In their 1981 “rematch,” Teno and running mate Pete A. Tenorio would receive 56.3% of the total votes cast; incumbent Gov. Carlos S. Camacho and Lorenzo DLG Cabrera, who formed the Commonwealth Popular Democratic Party, would get 23.4%, while the Democratic slate of H.R. Guerrero and Froilan C. Tenorio would finish third with 20.3%.)

On Nov. 15, 1974, Marianas Variety’s banner headline read:


“Supporters and members of the Popular Party tore and burned two volumes of the [Trust Territory] code last Sunday evening at the west side of the TT Headquarters building and the Office of the High Commissioner [the U.S.-appointed chief executive of the TTPI].

“About 250 persons gathered in front of the building to protest the outside interference from the other [TT] districts [in] local politics and particularly the recent election.”

The other TT districts were Palau, Pohnpei, the Marshall Islands, Truk and Yap. Saipan, the main island of the Marianas District, was the TT capital and seat of government.

On MV’s editorial page, our columnist Jon A. Anderson noted “the bitter, mudslinging, vitriolic campaigning that is becoming the rule, rather than the exception, in the Marianas, as well as the shockingly poor sportsmanship exhibited by the defeated candidates and party here, for whom losing gracefully is evidently not possible.”

Three days after the elections, MV reported that the Popular Party solicited campaign donations from Japanese companies. This prompted a letter to the editor from a law student (and a future CNMI Supreme Court justice): “I am shocked to know that the Popular Party’s so-called ‘leaders’ have been begging money from Japanese businessmen to finance their political campaigns. You know what that means? … [T]hey would be puppets of the friendly Japanese yen seekers…. It’s our blessing that they lost the election!”

In another letter to the editor, the law student wrote:

“What exactly did the losing candidates of the Popular Party try to tell us by burning the TT Code? For 14 years they were in office but never complained about the Code. They were in Congress [of Micronesia] all these years…. Is it really the TT Code’s fault that they lost? Did the TT Code vote against them? … They disapprove and complain of outsiders being involved in our local politics yet they seek commonwealth [status]. Don’t they realize that when we become commonwealth the Saipanese would not only be a minority on our island but a subclass? Then our local politics would not only be influenced but totally controlled by outsiders.” (That is, statesiders.)

In the same issue,  another letter to the editor noted that MV published photos showing the “honorable [Marianas District Legislature] President and Congressman  and other followers…tearing up the TT Code and burning it…. Didn’t you know that the men…in the picture are the honorable leaders of the people in the Marianas? … Have you ever heard of any President who tore up the Rules and Regulations of his own government?”

On Dec. 6, 1974, MV reported the arrival on Saipan of the U.S. president’s chief Covenant negotiator, Ambassador F. Haydn Williams,  for the fifth round of the Marianas status negotiations. Our columnist Jon A. Anderson wrote:

“ ‘America or Die,’ read one of the signs at the airport this past Monday, a sentiment that sounded a bit like Patrick Henry’s patriotic cry. It was one of dozens of pro-U.S., pro-commonwealth signs and banners greeting Ambassador Williams and his delegation….

“As a relatively uninvolved American, I witnessed this scene with somewhat mixed emotions. I cannot help feeling that the people of the Marianas are painfully naïve about the United States, looking upon commonwealth status as some sort of panacea for the problems of their district, especially the economic problems….

“But there is also a part of me that reacts with a sort of surprised pleasure to the sight of people so obviously friendly toward the U.S. I am, like many Americans, a frequent critic of our governmental and social structure. I recognize much that is wrong with our way of life. Yet I am generally glad to be an American, and like most of my fellow citizens, would welcome anyone who wishes to join the American political family.”

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