SAN JUAN — The 2020 general elections are undoubtedly the most significant in the island’s modern history. This will be Puerto Rico’s first election after Hurricane María and the 2019 protests that ousted former Governor Ricardo Rosselló, and with two new parties this election season, there’s certainly a lot of competition for the two million registered voters to pick from.
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Hay 2,355,894 electores hábiles en Puerto Rico y de elles 974,928 tienen menos de 45 años, según datos obtenidos de la Comisión Estatal de Elecciones (CEE). Es decir, este grupo ocupa más de un tercio de la población hábil para votar en las elecciones generales del próximo 3 de noviembre. Ante la falta de presupuesto de la Comisión Estatal de Elecciones para una campaña educativa, han surgido múltiples iniciativas que incentivan el voto de los jóvenes. Lee sobre iniciativas como @somoslaclara, @mentesenaccion, y paravotar.org en nuestro reportaje. LINK IN BIO.
What follows is a summary of the races to watch:
The biggest race is the gubernatorial one, with six total candidates running (five with parties and one running independently).
Multiple polls and surveys are swirling, but most of them are saying the same thing: Pedro Pierluisi (the pro-statehood PNP party) and Charlie Delgado (the pro-commonwealth PPD party) are the front-runners, with Sen. Juan Dalmau (the indepdence PIP party) and Alexandra Lúgaro (Movimiento Victoria Ciudadana) tying for third and Dr. César Vázquez (Proyecto Dignidad) and Eliezer Molina (running as an independent) grabbing 1% or less of support.
A Noticentro poll, which received 93,636 responses online had Pierluisi leading with 33% support, Lúgaro at 31%, Delgado with 19%, Dalmau with 8%, Vázquez with 7% and Eliezer Molina with just 1%.
Pierluisi is also facing allegations of sexual harassment from his former personal trainer, Yolanda Sánchez Pagán, who had a sworn statement noting that the politician allegedly made sexual comments after she tried to get him to pay attention to her contractual claims, even after establishing multiple times that his advances were not welcome.
Tuve la oportunidad de entrevistar a Yolanda Sánchez Pagán, la exentrenadora personal de @pedropierluisi, y de examinar su evidencia. Después de todo lo dicho a raíz de su declaración jurada, es preciso puntualizar estos hechos noticiosos: pic.twitter.com/t6y5Vc6obj
— Oscar J. Serrano (@OscarJSerrano2) October 31, 2020
Pierluisi had a short stint as governor after former governor Rosselló appointed him as acting Secretary of State in July of 2019 before Rosselló resigned. On August 1, Pierluisi was sworn into office after being confirmed by Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives, but six days later the island’s Supreme Court declared that his swearing-in was unconstitutional and he steppped down. At that point, Wanda Vázquez —then the Secretary of Justice— became governor of Puerto Rico. Earlier this year, Pierluisi defeated Vázquez in the PNP primary race for governor.
Delgado of the PPD has also run a controversial campaign. From accepting endorsements by homophobic figures such as Pastor Wanda Rolón, to the high costs his municipality has spent on public employees compared to the rest of the island and also facing criticism for 54% of his municipality’s population being under the poverty line (and 63% of children in his municipality being under the poverty line), the longtime Isabela mayor is facing an uphill battle to La Fortaleza.
Lúgaro and Dalmau have shown to have a stronger presence with the younger voters, with the PIP candidate encouraging people to grab one of his campaign signs and “incomoda a tu comunidad” (make your community uncomfortable).
Como el mensaje de "incomoda a tu comunidad con un rótulo de Juan Dalmau" explotó, te invito a buscar un rótulo y ponerlo en tu comunidad. El que más likes (❤️ en TW ) tenga, voy y lo visito para tomarme una foto. #PatriaNueva pic.twitter.com/5YFeJMezLN
— Juan Dalmau (@juandalmauPR) October 10, 2020
On Sunday, Lúgaro held a drive-thru campaign rally to play up the support base she has in this this election. In 2016, Lúgaro ran unaffiliated and finished in third place.
No sé si los carros provocan que se vea más lleno, pero MVC… ? pic.twitter.com/lnK8xeU0ZU
— V. Torres Montalvo ? (@Motinsitepegas) November 1, 2020
Jenniffer González (PNP), the current Resident Commissioner (or island’s non-voting member in the U.S. Congress), is the frontrunner in the race and likely to win but faces some competition from former Governor Anibal Acevedo Vilá (PPD).
Polls show the Republican González with anywhere from 40% to 43% of support, while Acevedo Vilá hovering around 40%. She has faced backlash for working and supporting the Trump administration, as well as for supporting Tuesday’s non-binding statehood referendum, which has received no formal support from the Whte House or U.S. Senate leaders.
En el programa especial de @telemundopr “ENCUESTA FINAL” esto son los resultados de la papeleta para la posición de Comisionado Residente, donde según la encuesta revalidaría Jennifer González ¿ QUE OPINAS ? #MoluscoNews #ElMoluscoDePuertoRico? pic.twitter.com/zT3jlHvWfF
— Molusco ? (@Moluskein) November 2, 2020
Another Statehood Plebiscite
Another big vote is the non-binding plebiscite that will ask whether or not Puerto Rico should be admitted immediately into the Union as a state.
The Yes/No referendum has brought on its fair share of issues, as US Congress had appropriated the funds originally back in 2014 but the Department of Justice never turned it over to local officials due to the wording of the ballot and the department’s review of the wording. The DOJ refused again this year to hand over the $2.5 million, as they had an issue with the specific pro-statehood and anti-commonwealth nature of the plebiscite and if they were to fund it, it could be seen as an endorsement of these status options, as well as causing voters to misperceive the plebiscite’s results (if the majority votes yes) to think that they’d immediately be admitted as a state.
The island’s last plebiscite in 2017, brought by former Governor Rosselló, had incredibly low participation rates with only 23% of registered voters participating after multiple groups staged a boycott. With the Yes option being supported by the PNP and the NO by the PPD and PIP, both options are neck-in-neck, and whichever option could end up winning by a small percentage difference.
San Juan Mayor
Puerto Rico’s capital city and largest municipality has an incredibly competitive race against two members of the Legislature: Rep. Manuel Natal (MVC) and Sen. Miguel Romero (PNP). Historically, mayoral races have solely been between PNP and PPD candidates, but Senator Rossana López of the PPD is lacking support, even when her mentor Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz succeeded in winning two terms in San Juan.
A Nexos Economicos Inc. survey, which was conducted via social media gave Natal 40% of support with Sen. Romero trailing behind with 26%. However, the El Vocero/Gaither poll of 500 voters had Romero was leading with 50% against Natal’s 23.7%.
If Natal wins, he’d be the first non-PNP or non-PPD candidate to hold the position since 1944.
Normally, the number of seats available in Senate is 27 and 51 for the House of Representatives, but if any party obtains more than two-thirds majority in one or both houses of the legislature (as is currently the case with the Senate and the PNP) then by Puerto Rican constitution, political seats will be added for members of the minority parties.
Though specific districts have tough races this year (namely Rosa Segui in District I of San Juan and Eva Prados in District III of San Juan), the key legislative races for the island are the ones for at-large members of the House and Senate.
Thomas Rivera Schatz, current President of the Senate, narrowly avoided losing his party’s primary back in August after coming in fifth place and could struggle on Tuesday to get reelected by non-PNPs. Schatz’s rivals for this election include former gubernatorial candidate and former Senator María de Lourdes Santiago (PIP), independent candidate and surprise favorite in 2016 José Vargas Vidot, former gubernatorial candidate Rafael Bernabe (MVC), and former head of the Bar Association of Puerto Rico, Ana Irma Rivera Lassén (MVC).
The race for Representative at-large has brought plenty of new and old faces to the political sphere. Mariana Nogales Molinelli (MVC), lawyer and former Resident Commissioner candidate for the defunct Working Peoples Party back in 2016, has made herself known for her activist work and could grab the youth vote to get her elected to the House. There’s also Héctor J. Ferrer Santiago (PPD), son of the late PPD President, would be one of the youngest legislators to ever serve in the island’s history at just 25 years old.
Isabella Philippi Cámara is a freelance journalist who has worked for GFR Media, and is currently a rising senior in university studying communications. You can find her on Twitter @iphilippicamara.