|May 16, 2003
Copyright © 2003 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.
NPP Candidate For Resident Commissioner - Who Is The "Fairest Of Them All?"
When former two-term Governor Pedro Rosselló moves back to Puerto Rico permanently in June, his first order of business will be to deal with the issue of Carlos Pesquera, who until Rosselló announced his intention to again run for the office in 2004, was the front running New Progressive Party (NPP) candidate for next Governor of Puerto Rico. Pesquera says that his candidacy is not over and that he will take on Rosselló in a primary race. Insiders say that this is unlikely to happen and that he will withdraw. Even though Pesquera is President of the NPP, most of his early support within the party has switched to Rosselló. If he makes this choice, he could well set his sights on the race for Resident Commissioner and, if successful, a four-year tour in Washington. He is one of five likely NPP candidates for the job.
This week, Herald readers can choose among them in a straw poll. In no particular order, besides Pesquera, they are Sen. Miriam Ramirez de Ferrer, Sen. Kenneth McClintock, Former Resident Commissioner Carlos Romero-Barceló and former President of the Puerto Rico Senate, Charlie Rodriguez. At a future date, Popular Democratic Party (PDP) candidates for the post will be on display for your selection.
Pesquera, an engineer, was Rossellós Secretary of Transportation and Public Works, a job for which he was well suited and in which he accomplished much. When Rosselló decided not to seek a third term, the young aide was picked by the Party to run against the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) candidate and then Mayor of San Juan, Sila Calderon. At the beginning he was a hopeless underdog but, at the end, lost in a surprisingly close race. In that campaign, he was burdened by the cascading U.S. Department of Justice charges against members of the Rosselló Administration, subsequently leading to a raft of indictments and convictions. Since that failed campaign, Pesquera has fielded frequent sizzling political grounders from the Calderon Administration; all the while defending Rosselló of any personal complicity in the bribery and influence peddling schemes of their administration.
Another announced pretender to the Resident Commissioners post is NPP Senator, Miriam Ramirez de Ferrer. A medical doctor, she is a long-time activist for Puerto Rican statehood. Before running for the Senatorial "at large" seat in 2002 her first run for any political post in Puerto Rico she hosted a radio program and headed a grass roots pro-statehood group called "Puerto Ricans in Civic Action." A crowning accomplishment of her work was the collection of 350,000 island signatures advocating statehood, delivered to the White House and Congress. She is well known in Washington, especially among Republicans, a Party that she has passionately supported since the 1980s when she supported George Bush Sr.s presidential primary campaign in Puerto Rico.
Another NPP stalwart, the current Minority Leader of Puerto Rico Senate, Kenneth McClintock, a Democrat, is also positioning himself for a run for the non-voting chair in the House of Representatives. In the last Puerto Rico Senate, when his party was in the majority, the smooth and polished legislator chaired the Federal Affairs Committee, a position that put him in touch with a broad base of U.S. legislators on both sides of the aisle. He will be out of work after 2004, since he recused himself from seeking Senate election for more than three terms. He has been an active voice of the minority in a Senate dominated by PDP members and is a frequent visitor to Washington these days, there "gripping and grinning" with Congressional members and staffers that he hopes will be his colleagues after 2004.
Carlos Romero-Barceló has been a fixture of political life in Puerto Rico for over three decades. A central figure in the pro-statehood New Progressive Party (NPP) since its inception in the late 1960s, he was an 8-year holder of the office of Resident Commissioner during both of Pedro Rossellós terms as Governor. He is the only Puerto Rican politician to be the Mayor of San Juan (1968-76), the Governor of Puerto Rico (1976-84), and the Resident Commissioner. As a NPP running mate with Carlos Pesquera in 2000, he was unsuccessful in a bid for a third term in that post. Now seventy, he is still a caldron of energy, is actively supporting Rosselló for Governor and is likely to be an active campaigner for his old boss in the coming months. With automatic name recognition everywhere on the island, "El Caballo (The Horse), as he is called, cannot be ruled out as a candidate for his old desk on Capitol Hill.
Charlie Rodriguez, a Democrat, is an interesting political phenomenon in Puerto Rico. Born in New York City, he did not arrive on the island until he was six years old, but he has been remarkably successful at obtaining top political posts in the notoriously "old boys and girls network" of upper class politicians with political pedigrees going back generations. His luck ran out in 2000 when he challenged Jorge Santini in the NPP primary for Mayor of San Juan, but before that his political rise was noteworthy. An activist for civil rights since his teenage years, he has been a member of the Puerto Rico House for two terms and the Senate for another two. In the second Senate term, he held the post of President of the Senate, in which capacity he was responsible for moving through the Senate much of Rossellós agenda. He carries a map of Washington in his back pocket and keeps a Rolodex with hundreds of (202) area code prefixes.
Pedro Rosselló has said that he will not pick a running mate for the Resident Commissioner but allow the party members to do so in a primary. Those who believe that are also predicting that it will snow in San Juan and that the Montreal Expos will move permanently to Puerto Rico. Help Rosselló make his choice. Whom do you prefer?