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Democrats Divided By Statehood Issue

by Ivan Roman

January 23, 2000
Copyright © 2000 THE ORLANDO SENTINEL. All Rights Reserved.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- The Democratic face-off between Al Gore and Bill Bradley in Puerto Rico in March might be called off if a power struggle within the party is not resolved this week.

National party officials were set to decide this weekend in Louisville, Ky., whether they had jurisdiction in the matter in which pro-statehood and pro-commonwealth factions of the Democratic Party here accused each other of political maneuvering.

After a bitter primary for local elections in November, the local Democratic committee hurriedly called for party reorganization by Dec. 31 to make it eligible for $2 million in state funds for the March primary. The 95 people on the Democratic state committee, controlled by members of the pro-commonwealth Popular Democratic Party, and delegates to the 1996 convention, also dominated by the PDP, would select the president and board.

The pro-statehood faction backs Gore. A minority in the Democratic state committee, it did not present a slate and challenged the reorganization. New Progressive Party Sen. Kenneth McClintock said: "What we really want is to seek a structure to the party here that reflects the ideological diversity within it."

PDP Sen. Eudaldo Baez Galib, local chairman of the Democratic Party, called the challenge a move by Gore supporters to derail a primary they might lose. If the DNC's Rules Committee decides it does not have jurisdiction, primaries to pick the island's 33 delegates to the Democratic convention go on as scheduled. If it does, the issue likely won't be resolved by Tuesday's deadline for island officials to allocate state funding.

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