Pierluisi and Delgado will face off in Puerto Rico’s uncertain election

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Pedro Pierluisi and Carlos "Charlie" Delgado will be the two main candidates in an uncertain November general election for the governorship.

The island’s primary voters selected them in a two-day primary, which ended Sunday. According to the figures available Monday afternoon, Pierluisi won 57.8% of the vote in a race against the current governor. Delgado won 63.1% in a three-way race.

Pedro Pierluisi
Pedro Pierluisi has been elected to be the candidate for governor in Puerto Rico's pro-statehood party.

Puerto Rico attorney John Mudd said a Pierluisi victory, who worked for the Puerto Rico Oversight Board a few years ago, might lead to closer relations with the board than has been hitherto the case or would be the case with Delgado. However, he said there would likely be little change.

Pierluisi is a former resident commissioner for Puerto Rico. In that role he advocated for Puerto Rico in Congress, voted in House of Representatives committee hearings, but couldn’t vote when the House met collectively. He is a member of the New Progressive Party, which advocates for Puerto Rico statehood.

Since 2001 Delgado has been mayor of Isabela, a city of 46,000. He is a member of the Popular Democratic Party, which supports the “commonwealth” status that preceded the Oversight Board’s imposition or something similar to it.

“Any PDP or NPP win will continue the current policy against government reform and cutbacks,” said University of Puerto Rico Professor Emilio Pantojas García. The board “is the opposition of both these parties. Opposing the Junta gets votes.”

One of the candidates “is a very well-known figure in D.C. while the other will have to reach out in this area to others with more visibility and experience in this area,” said University of Puerto Rico Professor José Javier Colón.

Ultimately, the board dominates island governance and which party wins won’t change that, Mudd said.

None of the three observers thought that one or the other candidate should be seen as favorites.

On Monday the FBI arrested NPP Puerto Rico House Representative María Milagros Charbonier and charged her with fraud, theft, bribery, and obstruction of justice. The representative, who has been acting as the president of the House Ethics Committee and is a fundamentalist Christian, was charged with receiving more than $100,000 in illegal bribes.

The arrest is a black eye to the NPP party and may hurt Pierluisi’s chances in November, Mudd said. On the other hand, Delgado believes in therapy to convert gay people and this may alienate some of the left who might otherwise vote for him, he added.

Turnout for both parties in the election was down from past primaries, Pantojas García said. Candidates of the small parties Puerto Rico Independence Party and Movimiento Victoria Ciudadana [Citizen Victory Movement] will probably do comparatively well. However, statistics from the Puerto Rico State Commission on Elections show that the number of PDP voters in 2020 primary was up 5.1% from the number in the 2016 primary. Each of the parties will likely have at least one senator and representative in the legislative bodies.

Pantojas García said neither the PDP nor the NPP was likely to gain a clear majority.

Current Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz received fewer votes than many of the other NPP candidates, albeit enough to be re-elected in the Senators At-Large category. Because of his poor showing, he is unlikely to remain Senate president, even if the NPP retains control of the Senate, Mudd said.

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