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November 21, 2003
Copyright © 2003 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved. 

Aníbal Acevedo Vilá – Candidate or Representative or Both

Popular Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial candidate Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, who is also the incumbent Resident Commissioner, is in a quandary as to whether or not to resign his post in Washington and devote full time and attention to the campaign against Pedro Rosselló or to split his responsibilities between the two jobs. He says that he will make that decision once the gubernatorial campaign heats up next year.

This week, Herald readers can help him make that decision.

In August, after accepting the party nomination to run for Governor, Acevedo Vilá did not rule out resigning his post as Resident Commissioner, though he hinted that he might try to wear both hats until the election in November, 2004. Last week, an AP story had him assessing his priorities over the coming months in favor of the campaign for Governor while still holding onto his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, a job worth $155,000 in annual salary plus health and retirement benefits.

Both jobs pose challenges in the 12 months remaining before the elections. For the PDP ticket to prevail against an insurgent New Progressive Party (NPP) slate headed by former Governor Pedro Rosselló, Acevedo Vilá will need to convince the electorate that he offers a very different style of leadership than that of the current PDP governor, Sila Calderon, and that he can move the island out of its economic stagnation and ameliorate the island’s pressing problems of unemployment, crime and strained social service budgets. That will be a daunting task since all current polling shows the NPP slate of Rosselló, Fortuño, and Santini with commanding leads. A Puerto Rico WOW reader poll shows the NPP holding a 61% preference over the entire field while last week’s Herald reader poll shows the NPP ticket with a nearly 70% favorability rating.

For politicians holding elective office, incumbency is usually a blessing. The position allows the candidate to use accomplishments to make news and the power of the office to attract supporters wishing to hold or gain favor with a winner. This formula fails when the office holder is perceived as not being effective in the job and likely to be rejected by the voters. Arguably, Acevedo Vilá falls into this category and needs to remove the stain of failure from his reputation, put on him by none other than the Governor of his own party, Sila Calderon.

After vesting weighty support for him in his campaign to win the primary fight for Resident Commissioner against José Alfredo Hernandez Mayoral in the 1999 primary and subsequent 2000 election against Carlos Romero Barceló, Governor Calderon rejected him as the person to replace her when, earlier this year, she decided to retire from politics, and in a final affront to her former favorite, named the same Mr. Hernandez Mayoral as her preferred successor. After first accepting the nomination, Hernandez Mayoral later withdrew, leaving a PDP caucus with the job of selecting Acevedo Vilá as the Party’s gubernatorial candidate, effectively making him its third choice after Calderon herself and Hernandez Mayoral.

Whether her snub of him represented Acevedo Vilá’s failure to adequately advance Puerto Rico’s interests in Washington or was rather a smokescreen for her own ineptness in dealing with Congress and the White House, the burden of the indictment of Acevedo Vilá is now on his shoulders as he seeks to replace her in office. The lynchpin of Governor Calderon’s Washington agenda, the amendment of the Section 956 federal tax benefits for outside investors in Puerto Rico, failed to gain traction in spite of intense lobbying by Acevedo Vilá, the Governor, other PDP stalwarts and paid consultants.

If Aníbal Acevedo Vilá decides to wear both hats during the year leading up to the election, he will run the risk of giving short shrift to Puerto Rico’s business in Washington during a time when the U.S. Congress will be considering legislation of inestimable importance to Puerto Ricans on the island, especially in the area of entitlements and medical benefits. At a time when members of the House and 1/3 of the Senate have their constituents and their own reelections in mind, it will be easy for Puerto Rico, with no Congressional delegation to protect its interests, to be left behind. This phenomenon argues for his active advocacy of Puerto Rico in Washington.

On the other hand, if Acevedo Vilá neglects the vote getting process on the island, he will fail in his ambition to serve as Puerto Rico’s governor and most likely end any chance for the PDP political agenda to be advanced for four more years.

How many hats will he wear? The PDP flag bearer is indeed faced with a tough choice.

What do you think? Should Aníbal Acevedo Vilá resign as Resident Commissioner and devote full time to the gubernatorial campaign?

Please vote above!

This Week's Question:
Should Aníbal Acevedo Vilá resign as Resident Commissioner and devote full time to the gubernatorial campaign?

US . Residents
. PR
Yes 38%
33% No 50%
13% Not sure 12%


.To submit your idea for a future PR Herald poll question or "Hot Button" issue, please click here.

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