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October 24, 2003
Copyright © 2003 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved. 

NPP Gubernatorial & Resident Commissioner Candidates Set for November Vote

Today there are six. In nine days there will be two.

By the end of the day of Sunday November 10th, the 2004 official New Progressive Party (NPP) candidates for Governor and Resident Commissioner will have been selected by party voters in the primary election.

This week, Herald readers can select who they think those two will be.

In the Resident Commissioner race, four candidates are presenting themselves as the party’s candidate to run in 2004 against Roberto Prats of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) and Edwin Irizarry Mora of the Puerto Rico Independence Party (PIP) for a ticket to Washington and a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

That race will pit Luis Fortuño, Miriam Ramírez de Ferrer, Charlie Rodríguez and Carlos Romero Barceló, all NPP activists and all ardent "statehooders," each promising to make major efforts to do what they can to advance that cause in the halls of Congress. In most respects, all are in agreement as to what challenges the island and their party face in the coming years.

A separating factor among them is differing identification with the national Democratic and Republican Parties. Fortuño and Ramírez are Republicans while Rodríguez and Romero are national Democrats. Each in the first group tout their contacts with the current Republican leadership in both houses of Congress and the White House, while the latter two are reminding statehood activists that the balance in Washington could shift in 2004 and that it has been the Democrats that have been the most sympathetic to the statehood cause.

By and large, the four have not strayed far from the gubernatorial platform of Pedro Rosselló and all have endorsed the former Governor in his effort in the primary contest against Carlos Pesquera. Rosselló has maintained a strict public neutrality in the Resident Commissioner race, smiling appropriately at each on public occasions. On issues, all have stressed the need for the U.S. Congress to grant parity in federal benefits to the American citizens of Puerto Rico and the need to improve Puerto Rico’s tattered reputation among Senators and Members of the House who deeply resented the anti-American tone of the protests surrounding the U.S. Navy pull-out of its training facility on Vieques.

Each has attempted to rise above the other on the basis of their unique experience in government and politics. Luis Fortuño points to his understanding of Puerto Rico’s needs gleaned from his role as Secretary of Economic Development & Commerce in the Rosselló administration. Ramírez de Ferrer, a medical doctor, and a current Senator has stressed her understanding of the island’s deficient health care system and her desire to qualify Puerto Rico as an enterprise zone, qualifying it for increased federal economic development funds.

Former two-term Governor, San Juan Mayor and Resident Commissioner Carlos Romero Barceló stresses his impressive political résumé as an asset in Washington’s political battles and the possibility that he would return to his old job with eight years of seniority. An overriding theme in the campaign of Charlie Rodríguez, a former President of the Puerto Rico Senate, is his desire to work for the interests of all Americans in addition to advocacy for the special needs of Puerto Rico.

The NPP gubernatorial primary is a choice between two men who were close political allies.

In 1993, the newly-elected Governor Rosselló appointed his current rival for the 2004 NPP candidacy, Carlos Pesquera, to the top post in the Department of Transportation and Public Works. As Secretary, Pesquera developed a reputation as a capable administrator, overseeing a $12 billion investment in the island’s infrastructure, including the initiation of the Urban Train project. When Gov. Rosselló withdrew from running for a third term, Pesquera was named the replacement candidate for the NPP. He lost in a close election to the incumbent, Sila Calderon, but remained the party’s leader and voice of opposition to the new PDP administration. He automatically became the presumptive choice to challenge Gov. Calderon in 2004.

Then the political earthquake struck.

Pedro Rosselló, who had "retired" to a teaching post at George Washington University’s Medical School, announced that he would be returning to the island to resume his political career and again run for governor. When he began his campaign in late May of this year, the political cognoscenti expected Pesquera to step aside for his old boss, but it did not happen. Even after most of the NPP leaders jumped his ship to sail with Rosselló, he remained undaunted. He has actively campaigned, ignoring polls that reveal him trailing, telling associates that he believes that the party rank and file will reward his effort to hold the party together when Rosselló abandoned the island to don academic robes.

Their opposition has mainly dwelt on criticism of the current PDP administration and avoided vitriol against each other. Recent polling indicates that the race is tightening, with Rosselló still in the lead. In the coming week we can expect a massive media campaign from both candidates. Typically, these media blitzes do move voters, especially the undecided, holding out hope for Pesquera supporters that he will narrow the gap and win by a razor thin margin.

How do you vote?

Please vote above!

This Week's Question:

US . Residents
. PR
Carlos Pesquera / Luis Fortuño 7%
6% Carlos Pesquera / Miriam Ramírez de Ferrer 3%
7% Carlos Pesquera / Charlie Rodríguez 11%
6% Carlos Pesquera / Carlos Romero Barceló 8%
33% Pedro Rosselló / Luis Fortuño 40%
15% Pedro Rosselló / Miriam Ramírez de Ferrer 9%
8% Pedro Rosselló / Charlie Rodríguez 10%
12% Pedro Rosselló / Carlos Romero Barceló 10%


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