Del. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D)
Elected: 2008, term expires 2010, 1st term.
Born: Jan. 19, 1955, Saipan .
Education: Attended U. of Guam, 1972; Attended Armstrong U., 1973-74; Attended U. of HI-Manoa, 1989-90.
Family: Married (Andrea); 6 children.
Military career: Army Reserves, 1982-87.
Elected office: Northern Marianas Commonwealth Legislature, 1982-86.
Professional Career: Governor's deputy chief admin. officer, CNMI government, 1980-81; Spec. asst. for mgmt. & budget, CNMI government, 1994-95; Exec. dir., Commonwealth Election Commission, 1999-2008.
The first delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands is Gregorio Kilili Comancho Sablan, elected in November 2008. He grew up in Saipan in an extended family much involved in politics. His grandfather was the first elected mayor of Saipan, and his uncle was the city’s longest serving mayor. At age 11, he moved to the Federated States of Micronesia and attended boarding school, the only ethnic Chamorro there. He attended the University of Guam and the University of California at Berkeley, but did not get a degree. He went to work for Republican Gov. Carlos Camacho, the CNMI’s first elected governor, and then was elected to serve in the Legislature from 1982 to 1986. Sablan was on the Washington staff of Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, who has long taken a close interest in the Pacific territories, and served for 18 months. When he returned to Saipan, Sablan was special assistant for management and budget for Democratic Gov. Froilan Tenorio and special assistant for Republican Gov. Pedro Tenorio. Later, he was appointed executive director of the Commonwealth Election Commission and won praise for his conduct of CNMI’s closely contested election in 2006.
After Congress voted in April 2008 to give the CNMI a non-voting delegate in Congress for the first time, Sablan ran for the office with eight others. Two of them spent large sums—large for the CNMI, at least—on their campaigns. Retired Judge Juan Tudela Lizama spent $52,000 and seven-year CNMI Washington representative Pete A. Tenorio, a Republican, spent $37,000. Sablan ran as an independent rather than as a Democrat because, he said, the local Democratic Party was “not organized,” spent only $15,000 and relied on grass-roots campaigning. He was endorsed by the Filipino-American group CREAM, a group that claims 1,200 registered voters as members. Of 10,161 votes cast, Sablan received 2,474, edging his nearest competition, Tenorio, by 357 votes.
In the House, Sablan’s first bill was to convey to the CNMI submerged lands within three miles of the islands, which would reverse a 2005 Ninth Circuit Appellate Court decision. His bill got the support of Insular Affairs Subcommittee Chairman, Del. Madeleine Bordallo, D-Guam, and the ranking Republican, Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona. In March 2009, Sablan called for a 180-day delay in implementing federal immigration law in the CNMI, and later that month, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano agreed to the delay.