|August 8, 2003
Copyright © 2003 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.
The New Progressive Partys Resident Commissioner Primary: The Race Is Joined
Who will be the successful New Progressive Party (NPP) candidate to win the November primary election, thereby gaining the chance to become a voice for Puerto Rican statehood in the U.S. Congress after 2004? One year after the primary, in the general election, whichever NPP representative prevails in the primary fight will face the only Popular Democratic Party (PDP) candidate to have filed, Senator Roberto Prats, and the Puerto Rico Independence Party (PIP) contender, economist Edwin Irizarry Mora. Neither of them, naturally, will be speaking for statehood.
The NPP field closed on August 1st with four prominent Statehooders officially registered; former Puerto Rico Senate President Charlie Rodríguez, current Puerto Rico Senator-at-Large Miriam Ramirez, former Puerto Rico Governor and Resident Commissioner Carlos Romero Barceló and Luis G. Fortuño, the Secretary of Economic Development & Commerce during Governor Pedro Rossellós first term.
All four have endorsed Rossellós candidacy for Governor in his NPP primary contest against his former Secretary of Transportation and Public Works and President of the Party, Carlos Pesquera. Rosselló, however, has remained mum on his preference for a running mate in 2004, should he beat Pesquera for the opportunity to face the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, and Independence Party (PIP) candidate Rubén Berríos Martínez sixteen months from now.
Three of the four candidates are well known to Puerto Rican voters, especially Carlos Romero Barceló who has faced the voters nine times since 1968 for positions as Governor, Resident Commissioner and Mayor of San Juan. Seven were successful efforts, although he lost his last bid to return to Washington for a third term as Resident Commissioner in Y-2000 to current PDP Resident Commissioner, Aníbal Acevedo Vilá in the Popular Party landslide in that general election. (Click here to read an October 19, 2000 Herald profile for Carlos Romero Barceló).
Former NPP President of the Senate, Charlie Rodríguez, was elected for two terms in the Puerto Rico House and two terms in the Senate, holding the leadership position in his last. His political career was stalled in Y-2000 when he lost a bid to run as the NPP candidate for the Mayor of San Juan. The man who defeated him, Jorge Santini, is the current chief executive of Puerto Ricos capital and largest city. Rodriguez has called for the four NPP candidates to participate in eight regional debates, all televised to an island-wide audience. (Click here to read a Herald interview with Charlie Rodríguez in the current issue of the Herald).
Senator Miriam Ramirez is holding down her first elected office as a minority member in Puerto Ricos upper legislative body, winning her 1999 party primary and the Y-2000 general election by a surprisingly wide margin for a first-time candidate. Her strengths lie in her popularity among staunch proponents of Statehood whom she has courted for decades, both by organizing petition drives to present to the U.S. Congress and with her weekly radio program consisting of sharply edged criticism of separatist trends and an unambiguous message favoring permanent union with the United States. (Click here to read a Herald interview with Miriam Ramirez in a recent issue of the Herald).
Least well known to the electorate is Luis Fortuño, an attorney who was the last to file as a NPP candidate in the Resident Commissioner primary. Although he has held no elected office to date, he has been close to Puerto Rico issues and to its political process as director of economic development programs during the NPP days in power in the 1990s. Recently, he was chosen by the Puerto Rico Republican Party to be one of its national committeepersons, putting him in the mainstream of the party now guiding the U.S. legislative and executive agenda. Upon news of his candidacy, some prominent NPP players gave him their personal support, including the grand old man of the party, and its founder, former Governor Luis Ferre.
In the May 16th issue of the Herald, the Hot Button Issue poll asked readers to choose among the list of NPP candidates then expressing interest in formally registering or who seemed likely to do so at the time. Three finally did announce but two are no longer candidates for the office. Carlos Pesquera has stuck with his unlikely quest for the gubernatorial nomination and Sen. Kenneth McClintock, perhaps sensing the tide turning for the NPP, has decided to seek a leadership role in a post-2004 Puerto Rico Senate.
This week readers may again express a preference among the four officially announced NPP candidates for the office of Resident Commissioner to the House of Representative of the United States.
Who will win? Please vote above.