|June 6, 2003
Copyright © 2003 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.
Who Will be the Next Governor of Puerto Rico?
This week, the Herald offers readers the chance to express a preference for the Puerto Rican political party that will occupy the Governors office for the 2005 2008 term.
Barring any more "bombshell" announcements, any more surprise entries into the race, any more defections from politics, the upcoming campaign for next governorship of Puerto Rico is set almost, that is!
In time, the four announced candidates will be reduced to three and the starting gate will open for the race to the most powerful job in Puerto Rico.
Carlos Pesquera is still adamant that he will challenge former Governor Pedro Rosselló in a November, 2003, primary election for the New Progressive Party (NPP) candidacy, although he is given virtually no chance of winning. Literally all NPP aspirants for major offices in the next election are hitching their stars to Rossellós comet. Polls show Pesquera being drubbed in a "mano a mano" with Rosselló, but he insists that he will be the man to plant the NPP palm tree in the Forteleza garden come January of 2005. Nobody has yet located the drummer that he is marching to, but Pesquera, as yet, has not lost step to the beat.
Rosselló deplaned in Isla Verde last Sunday, carrying bags packed for a permanent stay in Puerto Rico. He had left San Juan in 2001, his party defeated and a corruption investigation of his administration in full swing, to take a teaching post at a Washington, D.C., medical school, telling friends and supporters that he was done with the madness of island politics.
In the first shock of the current race, Rosselló electrified Puerto Ricans with the news that he was ready for a comeback. Energized by the incumbent Popular Democratic Partys (PDP) lack of progress and its leaders slippage in the polls, he brushed up his Macarena steps, graded his last exams and charted a southeastern course to the Caribbean. He had to leave in the airport dumpster his portfolio of speeches criticizing his successor, Sila Calderón, who just days before, in a "two-hankie" address to the nation, announced that she would not seek a second term as Governor.
That pronouncement was a shock of even higher voltage than the Rosselló decision. But then, when she announced the name of the PDP candidate to succeed her, she popped all the breakers of the islands political circuitry.
Her mantel fell on José Alfredo Hernández Mayoral, son of the former three-term Governor Rafael Hernández Colón. A lawyer, with little executive experience on his resume and no electoral victories to his credit, Hernández Mayoral was rubber stamped by a PDP party enclave within days of the Governors announcement. The PDP seems still uncomfortable with its surprise candidate. A Herald reporters call to party headquarters in San Juan requesting the official portrait of their gubernatorial hopeful revealed that none existed. "We only have pictures of Governor Sila Calderón," he was told.
The new PDP standard bearers only political campaign experience was in his Y-2000 loosing bid to gain his Partys nomination for Resident Commissioner in Washington. At the time, Sila Calderón rejected him, preferring the incumbent, Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, who won. In this new alignment of the stars, Mr. Acevedo Vilá was not only rejected for the top spot in the current reshuffling, he reportedly was not even informed of the action beforehand. There were rumors that Ms. Calderón was ready to give Hernández Mayoral a visible post for the remainder of her administration so that he could build his resume a bit, but the offer was rejected before it was offered. "The voters," said the new PDP star "will elect me on the strength of my new ideas." So the PDP is in disarray, but it has a sitting Governor, it still controls the legislature and the voting is a long way off.
Last week, the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) surprised no one by announcing that its superstar and perennial candidate, Rubén Berríos Martínez, will harness up the war wagons for another assault on the Governorship of what he calls "one of the few remaining Colonies in the world." PIP leaders insist that the partys numbers are higher than its usual standing of less than 5% of the vote. The key to increased PIP numbers at the polls is the performance of the so-called "watermelon voters." They are the party members who, like the succulent fruit, are green - the PIP color - on the outside, but, unable to reconcile the idea of an independent Puerto Rico, usually end up voting "red," the color both of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) and the meat of a watermelon.
Worth considering is whether the PIPs popular support will improve in the next election as a result of its visibility in the Vieques protests. For months, Berríos and other Independence Party stalwarts camped out on Vieques in protest of the Navys use of the training facility, earning him miles of ink in local papers and almost daily exposure on the island TV news outlets. A significant improvement of the PIPs performance would likely come from weakened support for the PDP candidate.
Which partys candidate will prevail in the 2004 elections? Will it be the NPP, facing the prospect of a contentious primary fight, or will it be the PDP, disillusioned by the loss and its leader and unsure of the "gravitas" of her successor, or will it be the PIP, whose visibility with the voters has increased over the past several years?