CNMI to hold first ever runoff election
By Haidee V. Eugenio • Saipan Tribune • November 9, 2009
SAIPAN --Thousands of supporters of the two losing independent gubernatorial candidates in Saturday's elections will seal the victory of either Republican Rep. Heinz S. Hofschneider or Gov. Benigno R. Fitial of the Covenant Party in the first ever runoff election to be held in the CNMI.
Both said they are "confident" they will get the support of the independent voters.
Hofschneider topped Fitial by only eight votes -- the closest gubernatorial election in the history of the CNMI. The unofficial tally by the Commonwealth Election Commission showed that Hofschneider garnered 4,900 votes while Fitial got 4,892 votes.
In separate interviews after the last votes were counted shortly after 5 a.m. on Sunday, Fitial and Hofschneider said they share the same platform and vision with independent candidates Juan "Pan" T. Guerrero and former senator Ramon "Kumoi" S. Deleon Guerrero.
As of yesterday, Guerrero said he has yet to meet with his core team and supporters to discuss, among other things, the runoff election and whether they will support either of the candidates.
Deleon Guerrero couldn't be reached for comment when the unofficial voting results came out.
Both Fitial and Hofschneider are already banking on independent voters for the runoff election, which will take place just days before the federal takeover of local immigration on Nov. 28.
"I think we stand a better and greater chance to win the runoff because I am closer to Juan Pan and Kumoi," Fitial told Saipan Tribune in an interview at the Covenant Party headquarters on Middle Road shortly before 6am on Sunday.
Hofschneider, in a separate interview at the Republican Party headquarters in As Lito, said his team will sustain the "good momentum" in the runoff.
"Our team is also confident that we are reaching over to Juan Pan's and Kumoi's supporters because they will realize that we have the vision that they saw in both of them. They will come around and support us," he said.
The tandem of Hofschneider and House Speaker Arnold I. Palacios and the team of Fitial and Lt. Gov. Eloy Inos each got 35 percent of the 13,784 votes cast, out of the 16,108 voters who registered for the Nov. 7 elections.
Voter turnout stood at only 86 percent. This is much lower than the 93 percent recorded in the 2005 gubernatorial elections where Fitial edged Hofschneider by just 99 votes.
Because none of the gubernatorial candidates on Saturday got at least 6,892 votes, which represent 50 percent plus 1 of the 13,784 actual votes cast, a runoff is required. There are a total of 16,108 registered Commonwealth voters.