In a twist that will resonate through Puerto Rico and its diaspora, former governor Ricardo Rosselló —who resigned in 2019 due to public pressure regarding the #TelegramGate chat scandal— will be one of the island’s pro-statehood “shadow Congress” lobbyists in Washington, D.C., after election officials and local reports confirmed that Rosselló dominated Sunday elections as a write-in candidate.
With just 4.5% of all eligible voters coming out to vote on Sunday to choose two “shadow” Senate statehood lobbyists and four “shadow” House of Representatives pro-statehood lobbyists, the number of write-in votes for the House lobbyists was at 67,421 votes as of 9 a.m. ET, according to Puerto Rico’s official election commission. This figure is based on close to 99% of all precincts.
With Rosselló getting the vast majority of write-in votes, he will likely be the top choice, once all the results are certified. He would be joining Elizabeth Torres Rodríguez, Roberto Lefranco Fortuño and María “Mayita” Meléndez Altieri as the four House lobbyists. Torres Rodríguez, who will likely be the second top vote-getter, was actively promoting Rosselló as a write-in candidate.
The two Senate lobbyists will likely be Melinda Romero Donnelly and Zoraida Buxó Santiago.
The shadow Congress elections were a result of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party (PNP) following the next legislative steps to the non-binding November plebiscite results, where statehood won, 53%-47%. They also come after a statehood admission bill was formally presented to Congress in March. Unlike the previous shadow Congress of 2018 —which went nowhere and essentially self-imploded once Rosselló resigned in 2019— this new shadow Congress was elected, even if elected by less than 5% of Puerto Rico’s electoratete. These new shadow members might or might not get paid a salary by the government of Puerto Rico.
On Sunday, Rosselló, who has said that he would not take a salary as a shadow member, offered his thanks to the voters to “defend democracy.”
— Mari Cross ????#PR51????MAGA????? (@MariCr16008028) May 16, 2021
It is still unclear what role these new shadow members will do in D.C. but they will likely be working under the office of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration. In the meantime, a new report by The Intercept published on Monday chronicled now much money has been spent on lobbying for statehood in DC by interests in Puerto Rico that are tied to right-wing politics. In addition, another bill that calls for a self-determination process was also submitted to Congress in March. That bill is seen as counter to the statehood bill, raising questions if Democrats in Congress are unified behind one bill or not.
In the summer of 2019, Rosselló resigned from office, after a massive anti-corruption protest emerged in response to the #TelegramGate scandal. Many observers noted that an interview he gave to Fox News in 2019 was the beginning of the end as governor.
Last year, the former governor spoke to the New York Times in an interview where he tried to rebuild his image.