Editor’s note: Don’t miss a single detail ahead of the 2024 elections in Puerto Rico. Visit our special site to keep you informed.
Nine municipalities with incumbent mayors of the Popular Democratic Party (PPD), some in their first term and others veterans, will face primaries en route to the upcoming electionswhich represents a challenge for the community due to the wounds that may remain after the process and that could impact the internal candidacy for governor.
The PPD today has mayors in 41 of the 78 municipalities and, with a view to the upcoming elections, it will hold primaries in Trujillo Alto, Juncos, Naguabo, Dorado, Hatillo, Penuelas, Rincon, Mayaguez and Ponce, confirmed its general secretary. Gerardo “Tonito” Cruz.
Although Cruz corroborated The new day that there will be primaries in these nine towns, the official ratification will be once the candidacy presentation process is completed, which the PPD opened on October 16.
At the moment, only the mayor of Golden, Carlos Lopez Riveraand the representative Edgardo Feliciano Sanchez.
Primaries can end in “hurt spirits”
According to Cruz, who is also the alternate electoral commissioner of La Pava, “this is not the first time that the Popular Party faces primaries in municipalities with or without an incumbent mayor, so it is not complicated at all. Of course, we are going to take some precautions in municipalities like Mayaguez, Golden and possibly Hatilloto have some presidential delegates so that they can attend to the development of these primaries, day by day, so that they do not get out of hand.”.
He added that the idea is “that there are not going to be controversies of insults, of hurting each other. The regulations (of the PPD) are very specific about this, because later it is more difficult to achieve the unification of these sectors if the campaign is based on insults and not ideas. The delegates must emphasize what is correct, that there be campaigns of discussion, of ideas, each with their own strategy, but that they are not campaigns of insults.”
He recognized that “an effect of a poorly run primary makes people stay at home in the general election”.
For the former senator and political analyst Eudaldo Baez Galib, primaries can be harmful. “Contrary to what theory states that a primary is healthy for democracy, it is not necessarily healthy for the parties, so you have to evaluate your electoral health by looking at the facts of each town,” he said.
He added that, “in those (municipalities) where the PPD does not have a mayor, it is a good exercise. Where there is no mayor, then the primary has some meaning. Where there is a mayor, the party must always intervene and avoid the primary. Experience dictates that, after a primary, spirits are quite hurt.”
He also pointed out that a primary can be dangerous, considering that electoral participation has dropped drastically.
“The (municipalities) that concern me most, from an electoral point of view, are Ponce and Mayaguez, because they are a large electoral source and district capitals that, many times, set a tone, because it is where most campaigning is done and there are more media outlets. It has an effect on the campaign of the neighboring towns, because they are a source of information and controversies tend to percolate”stated Baez Galib.
Three private municipalities
Among the nine municipalities with future primaries, three of them –Trujillo Alto, Ponce and Mayaguez– have a peculiarity: their mayors are under judicial or administrative investigations.
The mayor of Ponce, Luis Irizarry Pabon, is investigated by the Office of the Panel on the Special Independent Prosecutor (Opfei) for, supposedly, request money from trusted employees to pay a personal loan which he used in his 2020 election campaign.
In Ponce, the representative Angel “Tito” Fourquet, that at the time of this publication did not respond to calls from The new day, could challenge the mayor. It remains pending whether Irizarry Pabon is accused by the Opfei, since the PPD regulations establish that there must be a conviction for a person to not be able to aspire to an elective position.
However, the municipal executive already announced, this Thursday, in written statements, that, “Regardless of the result of the investigation, in mid-November, I will be filing my candidacy to continue being the mayor of all Poncenos in 2024.”.
Meanwhile, in Mayaguez, Jose Guillermo “Guillito” Rodriguez He was removed as mayor and faces charges of conspiracy and embezzlement of public funds. While his case is clarified, the city council is in the hands of Jorge Ramoswho could face the community leader in primaries Rene Marrero and the representative Jocelyne Rodriguez Negronwho has said that he has not yet made “a final decision.”
As for the mayor of Trujillo Alto, Pedro Rodriguez Gonzalez, faces administrative complaints filed with the Department of Labor and Human Resources and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for an alleged case of sexual harassment, a matter that the PPD general secretary himself has said “is more complex” for the community. Rodriguez Gonzalez could be challenged by Frank Aliceawith whom he met in primaries, on July 16, 2022, when the election was held to find a replacement for the convicted former mayor Jose Luis Cruz Cruz.
Earlier this week, the PDP president, Jesus Manuel Ortizsaid that he would take action in the controversies of Ponce, Trujillo Alto and Mayaguez after they are resolved, although he admitted that they represent “great challenges” for the community in the face of the elections.
Other relevant cases
In ReedsMayor Alfredo “Papo” Alejandro Carrion will have primaries with Linette Feliciano, whose husband directs the group “Penepes con ‘Papo’ Alejandro.” The municipal executive has been in charge of the municipality for 20 years.
Meanwhile, in Naguabothe mayor elected in 2020, Miraidaliz Rosario Paganwill face Jose “Obelito” Rosario Sanchez, a regional supervisor of a private company. “That’s right, I will be challenging her,” said Rosario Sanchez.
Meanwhile, in Dorado, there will be another dispute between Mayor Lopez Rivera and the president of the House of Representatives, Rafael “Tatito” Hernandez. Both have already been protagonists of verbal confrontations.
Hatillo He has five interested in unseating the mayor Carlos Roman Romanwho arrived at the municipal seat in 2022, when Jose “Chely” Rodriguez resigned due to health problems. Now, the president of the Municipal Legislature, Brunilda Soto Lopezand the popular Juan Jose Aguilar, Tato Ruiz, Nur Vale and Jorge Ruizthey want to challenge Roman Roman.
And in CornerMayor Carlos Lopez Bonilla will be challenged by the senator Ada Garcia.
Dissatisfaction and burnout
Asked why new and experienced mayors will face primaries, Cruz said that “we would have to go into the particularities that exist there.”
“In new mayors, primaries can always be generated… people dissatisfied with a previous result, if there was a previous primary, and people who were left with the desire to try again. In the case of Rincon and Juncos, it could be other factors, people who can see some wear and tear. That must be measured with electoral numbers. I don’t see wear and tear on them, but those who are challenging him understand that they do.”said the secretary general.
He ruled out, in passing, that the primaries in these municipalities have the effect of the PPD losing one of the 41 mayoralties that it currently runs.
“We have measured those municipalities well. There are no strong contenders, not even in Mayaguez,” he said.
But the mayor of Villalba and president of the Association of Mayors, Luis Javier Hernandezunderstands that no one can be underestimated.
He explained that, with the emerging parties –Dignity Project and Citizen Victory Movement–, plus the internal primaries, we must be careful, because they are votes that could be lost and are necessary for a victory in 2023. In addition, he recalled that the Electoral Code requires all parties to present candidates in the mayor’s offices to retain the electoral franchise.
“These parties do like the Independence Party (Puerto Rican) that present water candidates, but in any case it does not stop worrying us. There is no small enemy in politics.”he noted.