Near final results in Puerto Rico mean that the now divided Popular Democratic Party (PPD) representation of the territory will be replaced by a unified, powerful, and aggressive New Progressive Party (PNP) team in January that has a vastly different approach to issues.
The NPP candidates for governor, Ricardo Rossello, and resident commissioner in the U.S. House of Representatives, Jenniffer Gonzalez (R), won by 2.9% and 1.5% respectively — with Gonzalez the top-vote-getter in the election — but the PNP also elected candidates to 21 of the 27 seats in the Senate and at least 33 of the 51 seats in the House. And, unlike the divided PPD, the PNP candidates ran on a clear, specific platform written by Rossello, with a number of legislators elected on his coattails.
Others elected to the Senate include four PDP members, the Independence Party (PIP) candidate, and an individual not affiliated with a party. Thirteen PPD candidates were elected to the House along with the PIP candidate. The winners of two House seats have not been determined. With 97.9% of the polling places counted, a PDP incumbent has a one vote lead; and, with 98.5% of polling places counted, a PNP candidate is ahead by 142 votes.
The new leadership’s principal agenda is seeking equality in the nation: statehood. With respect to debt, Rossello wants to pay all principal, although delay payments and reduce some coupon rates. He will try to do this by cutting government spending through consolidations and closing tax exemptions and loopholes. He will also have a robust infrastructure agenda, relying on private investment.
Rossello has also, however, counted on additional Federal spending to which Hillary Clinton was committed. Much of that seems unlikely now with the victories of President-elect Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress. Gonzalez — like many Republican congressional candidates — did not support Trump but she and Rossello have major supporters who did.
Trump has said that he will ask the Congress to consider statehood if Puerto Ricans vote for it again — which should be expected — and supported debt reduction and opposed a “bailout” for debt obligations.