Puerto Rico governor loses primary of pro-statehood party

National News

Voters wait to cast their ballots in Loíza, Puerto Rico, Sunday, Aug. 16, 2020. Thousands of Puerto Ricans on Sunday got a second chance to vote for the first time, a week after delayed and missing ballots marred the original primaries in a blow to the U.S. territory’s democracy. (AP Photo/Dánica Coto)

LOÍZA, Puerto Rico (AP) — Puerto Rican Gov. Wanda Vázquez on Sunday acknowledged losing the primary of her pro-statehood party to Pedro Pierluisi, who briefly served as the U.S. territory’s governor last year amid political turmoil.

With more than 78% of electoral colleges reporting late Sunday, Pierluisi received more than 57% of the vote compared with more than 42% for Vázquez.

“We have to abide by the decision of the majority,” Vázquez said in a brief speech where she warned Pierluisi that he should “aspire” to have the support of those who voted for her. She will remain as governor until the winner of Puerto Rico’s Nov. 3 general elections takes office.

Pierluisi spoke shortly after Vázquez and said the governor can count on him: “We all have to be united to push Puerto Rico forward.”

Meanwhile, Carlos Delgado, mayor of the northwest town of Isabela for 20 years, was poised to win by a landslide the nomination of the main opposition Popular Democratic Party. Conceding defeat was Puerto Rico Sen. Eduardo Bhatia and San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, known for her public spats with U.S. President Donald Trump.

With more than 68% of electoral colleges reporting, Delgado had received more than 60% of the vote.

The results come one week after delayed and missing ballots led to a chaotic primary that forced a second round of voting on Sunday in which thousands of Puerto Ricans got a second chance to vote for the first time.

Voting centers in nearly 50 of the island’s 78 municipalities opened following a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that stated a second round of voting would take place at centers that never opened on Aug. 9 or did not remain open the required eight hours.

The opening of at least one voting center in the north coastal town of Loíza was delayed by more than one hour as dozens of voters grumbled about having to stand in the heat with masks over their faces.

“We expected that there wouldn’t be any problems,” said Santiago Jiménez, a 68-year-old retiree, adding that some people left.

Jannette Ledoux, coordinator for the unit where the voting center was located, told The Associated Press that the problem was a result of four volunteers quitting late Saturday, delaying the required ballot counting before the doors opened.

Once voting got underway, one elderly woman emerged after casting her ballot and yelled to those waiting, “Come on! Come on! Let’s vote! Let’s vote!”

But not everyone could participate in Sunday’s second round.

The Supreme Court’s ruling permanently left out voters like Eldy Correa, a 67-year-old retiree who went to her voting center in the southwest town of Cabo Rojo three times last Sunday and desisted only to find out later that it opened late.

“They took away our right to vote,” she said, adding that she was upset with the president of the elections commission despite his apologies. “Sorry for what? That doesn’t resolve anything.”

Puerto Rico’s general elections will see a record six candidates running for governor. Among them is Pierluisi, who served for governor less than a week after former Gov. Ricardo Rosselló resigned last year following huge protests sparked by a profanity-laced chat that was leaked. However, the island’s Supreme Court ruled that Vázquez, former justice secretary at the time, was next-in-line to become governor since there was no secretary of state.

The island’s two main parties have demanded that elections commission president Juan Ernesto Dávila resign. Dávila has said it would be irresponsible to do so amid the primaries, and that he would only consider the petition afterward.

Officials have blamed the chaos of the Aug. 9 primaries on ballots arriving late to the elections commission and trucks laden with materials not leaving until the day of the primaries, when usually they depart one or two days before. Dávila has said the ballots arrived late because of the pandemic, Tropical Storm Isaias and a last-minute request from both parties to print more of them.

Officials from both parties said Sunday that all ballots arrived on time and that no serious delays were reported.

Many Puerto Ricans remained angry and embarrassed over a botched primary that many say was a blow to the U.S territory’s democracy. But that didn’t stop Irma Muñoz, a 72-year-old retiree, from weathering heat and the pandemic to stand in line for a second time to cast her vote.

“You have to make the sacrifice,” she said. “Otherwise, we’re stuck with what we have now.”

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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