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Mayoral Campaign Beginning To Simmer

by Ivan Roman

June 20, 1999

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- The campaign is only 2 weeks old, and mudslinging already has started.

And the name of a radio talk show host was used.

A newspaper ad, sent in unmarked envelopes to New Progressive Party activists in San Juan, asked, "Why does Luis Francisco Ojeda back Jorge Santini for mayor of San Juan?"

For Santini, a senator bucking [bucking=refusing] party leadership and forcing a primary, this is a "dirty tactic." Ojeda is a vicious NPP critic. Saying he backs Santini is like saying Rush Limbaugh backs Jesse Jackson.

"They are desperately looking for a way to turn the NPP's political base against me," Santini said.

The incident angered party activists who back Santini. They already resent leadership for anointing Senate President Charlie Rodriguez as their candidate for that position. Close to 100 had already stormed the office of House Speaker Edison Misla Aldarondo, who presides over the NPP in San Juan, and told him to butt out.

Rodriguez denies any involvement in the ad.

The Rodriguez camp is desperate, Santini said, because of his polls. On Thursday Santini made public poll results by Research Enterprises that put him ahead of Rodriguez 57 to 43 percent.

Rodriguez, who walked through some of San Juan's poorest neighborhoods last week, said he had polls that show him on top.

"Those polls are paid for by the candidates, and you can't give them the same credence you would give to an independent poll," Rodriguez said.

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