|Who Will Win The Governorship Of Puerto Rico In 2004?
The November 29, 2002, edition of the Herald presented readers with the first "straw poll" for the 2004 gubernatorial race in Puerto Rico. At that time, the political winds were beginning to blow and the Hot Button Issue interactive asked readers to gauge the direction of those gusts and what candidate they would likely blow into office as the islands next governor. The choices offered were the incumbent, Sila Calderon, who will surely present herself to the voters as the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) candidate for a second term; Carlos Pesquera the New Progressive Party (NPP) President and then that partys front-runner; NPP Mayor of San Juan Jorge Santini; perennial NPP candidate and former Resident Commissioner Carlos Romero Barcelo; and former Governor Pedro Rossello, then hibernating in a university professors chair, thousands of miles from Puerto Ricos maelstrom of political intrigue.
To the question "Who Will Win The Governorship Of Puerto Rico In 2004," 33% of all poll participants then thought that Carlos Pesquera would replace the incumbent governor, Sila Calderon, who polled 26%. Jorge Santini polled 22% and Pedro Rossello 12%. Carlos Romero Barcelo drew only 7% of voter approval. When the preference of only island readers was analyzed, Pesquera and Calderon were dead even at 30%, with Jorge Santini not far behind at 26%. Rossello and Romero drew minimal and identical support at 7%.
Last week, however, the political winds picked up in velocity when Pedro Rossello announced in a radio interview that he would emerge from hibernation and seek to run for governor under the NPP banner. By the time the news that the popular governor from 1992 to 2000 would again be running for office swept through the political haunts of the NPP, the winds had reached gale force. They blew out from cover many mayors and legislators who had been laying low, refraining from endorsing Pesquera, and pushed them to assemble under Rossellos banner. Other party leaders remained loyal to Pesquera while a few remained on the sidelines.
Governor Sila Calderon limited her public remarks to a few jibes about the "self-destruction of the NPP," but lost no time reminding Puerto Ricans of the political corruption occurring during Rossellos 8-year term of office. Her subsequent "State of the Commonwealth" speech became a kick-off for her own reelection campaign, containing references to the scandals and convictions of former Rossello cabinet members. In it she provided an action plan for the second half of her term, promising a 4-billion dollar investment in island infrastructure over the next two years. Her highly partisan address in the Puerto Rican House of Representatives drew cheers from her supporters, "Four more years
four more years!"
At least publicly, Carlos Pesquera seemed undaunted by the prospect of a primary battle with his former mentor. He opened a campaign bank account and continued to put the best face on his new predicament. In his role as NPP party president, he duly criticized Governor Calderons speech as "inappropriate," and lacking in any knowledge as to what the island "really needs." He promised that his primary campaign will "motivate people," both to his candidacy to the NPP platform for the future. Jorge Santini, the NPP mayor of San Juan has not been drawn into the Pesquera/Rossello endorsement contest, perhaps savoring his role as a compromise candidate if neither of the two become viable NPP standard bearers. He continues as NPP Vice President.
Party insiders are pondering if a primary election will need to occur. Rossello is expected to return to the island March 15th to build his election team and begin to put forth his message. The feeling is that by November of this year, when any primary would be held, it will be clear to both candidates where the support lies and the clear looser will back off in favor of party unity. NPP legislator Jorge De Castro Font, a former member of the opposition PDP, stated that a primary would be "political suicide" for Pesquera who, he said, "would loose 10 to 1."
Already predictable is what the dueling campaign messages will be between the final PDP and NPP contenders. The incumbent party will stress its accomplishments and urge voters to steer clear of "the old path," by which it means political corruption. The NPP will admit to its mistakes in not controlling the individuals who broke the law and promise reform. It will also point to a failed Calderon administration, unable to initiate and finish projects and ask voters to join it on "a new path" to progress and prosperity.
So, in light of the new political developments in Puerto Rico, we return to the identical question we asked last November,
"Who Will Win The Governorship Of Puerto Rico In 2004?"