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Puerto Rico Status Politics Enter The Florida Governor’s Race

August 9, 2002
Copyright © 2002 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All rights reserved.

As the November 2002 U.S. mainland elections loom larger, we already begin to see the Puerto Rico political status debate playing out on different campaign stages throughout the country. Since the island is so dependent on the influence of the U.S. Congress, partisans are anxious to cover their bases early, making sure that their vision for the territory’s future is revealed to future members of that body. Even state offices have become targets for island political lobbying, especially in states where there are large concentrations of Puerto Ricans. The gubernatorial races in New York and Florida are cases in point.

Governor Jeb Bush, in his run to repeat as Florida’s chief executive, is being courted by opposing teams of Puerto Rican political status activists. On one side are pro-statehood advocates, consisting of island Republicans and elected officials of the New Progressive Party (NPP), while on the other is pro-Commonwealth Governor Sila Calderon and her minions who are on the Florida streets registering Puerto Rican voters in the six-million dollar nationwide effort that she kicked off several weeks ago in New York City.

Several articles in today’s Herald describe the latest contest for Jeb Bush’s affections. At a rally in Kissimmee, Florida, several island pro-statehood mayors endorsed Governor Bush in his run for reelection, most likely against former Clinton Administration Attorney General, Janet Reno. In May of this year, Governor Sila Calderon endorsed Governor Bush, as she has the reelection bids of other Republicans, including New York’s Governor George Pataki and New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg (See Volume 6 No. 21 "Calderon Endorses Jeb Bush").

As the referenced press accounts indicate, Gov. Jeb Bush has great appeal for many Puerto Ricans both in Florida and on the island. He is knowledgeable of Puerto Rican issues, he has affinity for the Hispanic community, and he has important Washington numbers on speed-dial. So far he has been coy about his position on Puerto Rico’s status, but the Bush family’s stated preference for a 51st State from the Caribbean region is the "talk of the town."

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