|Delegate to the
U.S. House of Representatives
from the Northern Mariana Islands'
January 3, 2009
|Pedro Tenorio (Resident
January 19, 1955 |
Saipan, Northern Mariana
|Political party||Democratic (Before 2008; 2009-2014)
Independent (2008-2009; 2014-present)
|Education||University of Guam
University of California,
University of Hawaii, Manoa
Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan  (born January 19, 1955) is a Northern Mariana Islander politician and former election commissioner. Elected in 2008, Sablan became the first delegate to the United States House of Representatives from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
Elected as an independent, Sablan caucuses with the Democratic Party in the House of Representatives. In February 2009, Sablan became a Democrat. Sablan is the only Chamorro member of Congress. He was re-elected as a Democrat in the 2010 and 2012 elections, and was re-elected as an independent in the 2014 and 2016 elections.
Sablan was born on Saipan, capital of the CNMI, on January 19, 1955. He was the only son of seven children. He grew up in an extended family, spending much time with his grandparents. His father was an employee of Bank of America. His uncle was the mayor of Saipan.
At the age of eleven, Sablan began boarding at Xavier High School, a Jesuit school in Chuuk in the Federated States of Micronesia, then administered by the United States. He then returned to Saipan, where he graduated from Marianas High School. At the age of sixteen, Sablan began attending the University of Guam, then transferring to the University of California at Berkeley. However, he dropped out of college when his father lost his job. Upon returning to Saipan, Sablan married and then had three children. He later attended the University of Hawaii at Manoa from 1989 until 1990, but did not graduate.
Sablan was elected for two terms in the Northern Mariana Islands Commonwealth Legislature from 1982 until 1986. He served in the legislature as a Democrat. Sablan was selected as a special representative to hold talks with the United States Assistant Secretary of the Interior to negotiate federal assistance for the CNMI during his tenure in office.
He retired from the Commonwealth Legislature to become Special Assistant to Daniel Inouye, a U.S. Senator from Hawaii during the late 1980s. After this he briefly returned to college before returning to the CNMI to serve as Special Assistant for Management and Budget in the administration of Froilan Tenorio (1994-98). He later served as a Special Assistant in the administration of Pedro P. Tenorio (1998-2002) before being appointed Executive Director of the Commonwealth Election Commission, a position in which he served until he filed to run for delegate.
For thirty years, beginning in 1978, citizens of the CNMI elected a Resident Representative, commonly known as Washington representative, an office established by Article V of the Constitution of the Northern Mariana Islands for the purpose of representing the CNMI in the United States capital and performing related official duties established by CNMI law.
In 2008, the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008, signed into law by President George W. Bush, replaced the position of resident representative with a nonvoting delegate to the House of Representatives. The other United States insular areas, Guam, American Samoa, the United States Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico, already had nonvoting delegates to Congress. The new position received the power to serve in congressional committees, to introduce bills, and to vote on proposed legislation in committee, but still had limited powers on the House floor, lacking the right to vote on legislation on the House floor.
The election of the first delegate was set for November 4, 2008. It was the only contest on the ballot, as local elections in the CNMI occurred in odd-numbered years through 2009 and residents of the CNMI do not have the right to vote in United States presidential elections.
Sitting Resident Representative Pedro A. Tenorio, a Republican, announced his candidacy for the new office. David Cing, a former member of the Northern Mariana Islands Senate, received the nomination of the Democratic Party of the Northern Mariana Islands, which is not officially affiliated with the national Democratic Party. Seven independents also ran for the office, including Sablan. Although Sablan was traditionally affiliated with the Democratic Party, he chose to run as an independent.
In the CNMI's first federal election, fewer than 13,000 people registered to vote in the election, and 79 percent of those who registered voted in the election.
During the campaign, Sablan stated that as delegate, he would seek to bring more federal funding for education, more federal funding for health care, and federal funding for a more productive search for effective alternative energy sources to the CNMI. He also said that as delegate he will introduce and pursue passage of submerged lands legislation that would give the CNMI economic rights and regulation for submerged lands and waters out 200 miles from the islands. He also supports federal funding for a United States Coast Guard station in the CNMI, although one already exists in neighboring Guam.
Sablan was elected the CNMI's first delegate to the House of Representatives on November 4, 2008, receiving 2,474 votes, or 23% of the vote. He defeated Tenorio, who received 20%, by only 357 votes. Other close competitors included fellow independents John Gonzales, who received 18.73% of the vote, and Juan Lizama, who received 17.34%.
In a four-way race, Sablan received 4,896 votes (43%) defeating the Covenant Party's Joe Camacho (2,744), the Republican Party's former Governor Juan Babauta (1,978) and Democrat former Lieutenant Governor Jesus Borja (1,707) in the 2010 general election.
Sablan received 9,829 votes (80%) of the votes to Republican Ignacia T. Demapan's 2,503 votes in the November 2012 general election. Sablan is the first political candidate to record such a high winning total over an opponent.
Sablan won the November 2014 election with 65.3% of the vote, defeating Democratic candidate Andrew Sablan Salas.
Sablan successfully ran unopposed in the November 2016 election.
Sablan assumed office on January 3, 2009, and was sworn-in on January 6. Sablan decided to caucus with the Democratic Party. Several dignitaries from the Northern Mariana Islands attended Sablan's swearing-in-ceremony by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, including Governor Benigno Fitial and his wife, First Lady Josie Fitial, as well as the outgoing CNMI Resident Representative in Washington, Pete Tenorio, whom Sablan defeated in the 2008 election.
On February 10, 2009, Sablan introduced submerged lands legislation which would give the CNMI "the same benefits in its submerged lands as Guam, the Virgin Islands, and American Samoa have in their submerged lands." The bill passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 416-0 on July 15, 2009 but stalled in the Senate.
Sablan has also introduced a bill which would provide for the establishment of Job Corps centers in U.S. territories and a bill which would authorize college tuition grants of up to $15,000 per year to graduates of CNMI high schools. The latter bill would also allow CNMI students to pay "in-state tuition" at any public college or university in the United States. Both bills stalled in the House.
As of January 2017, Sablan had sponsored one bill and cosponsored 25 that ultimately became law.
As delegate, Sablan has sought and often secured earmarks, energy grants, and other federal funding for projects in the CNMI. Much of this funding came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The ARRA did not include the CNMI in a 13.86% across-the-board increase in food stamp benefits nationally, but Sablan successfully lobbied Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to reprogram $1.459 million to give the Northern Marianas the same 13.86% increase as the rest of the country.
According to a report released by AOL News in July 2010, by the end of June 2010 (nine months into the US Government's fiscal year), Sablan had spent more money from his Members Representational Allowances on food than any other congressman with $23,457. Sablan claimed that the amount was used to refund staffers for various travel costs.
Whip, Region II, Democratic Caucus
elected as an Independent to the One Hundred Eleventh Congress (January 3, 2009-present); changed from an Independent to a Democrat on February 23, 2009.
|U.S. House of Representatives|
as Resident Representative of the Northern Mariana Islands
|Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives
from the Northern Mariana Islands' at-large congressional district
|Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
|United States Delegates by seniority