La Vieja Changa called it.
It all started with a tweet, two days into the term of new Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla. The new President of the Senate of Puerto Rico, Eduardo Bhatia, called the governor irrational, presumably over the latter’s insistence of the approval of the legislative reform proposal, even when some in their own Popular Democratic Party opposed the measure. (Bhatia denies he sent that tweet, but no one believed him.)
[blockquote]”I asked AGP for room for that, and he’s irrational”[/blockquote]
Fast forward ten months, and here at Pasquines we’re ready to declare the 2016 primary season open for the PPD. There were rumors, months ago, that Bhatia and Garcia Padilla were not getting along, to the point that Bhatia was exploring the possibility of a run for the governorship in 2016. Then came the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority fight.
The PREPA is a state-owned monopoly that barely manages to supply power to the islands in Puerto Rico. It’s extremely indebted, and facing a financial calamity that endangers the future of the agency. After looking to “fix” the issues with the economy, retirement system, and other public agencies, the government is now considering options to address the problems at PREPA, which is where the fight began. On one hand the governor’s proposals barely managed to get any attention. Then Bhatia came out for competition in the energy sector, while Senator Cirilo Tirado, also of the PPD, sided with the unions and more leftist organizations, who favor yet another reform of the troubled agency.
The differences at this point must have been too great at this point for cordiality, or camaraderie between party colleagues to prevail.
That was a video of Senator Tirado openly attacking Bhatia, who technically is his party boss, for allegedly having received “graphic insults” from the Senate President. According to pundits, this is merely the first chance Tirado has of publicly stating what he has been saying in private for months. The rumors of a rivalry between Bhatia and Tirado were rampant and now we get to see it in all of its public glory, and it is starting to cost Tirado, who lost the presidency of the Energy Affairs Committee in the Senate.
But that is not the biggest fight to watch, nor is it the one of biggest concerns to the PPD supporters. They’re scared of a primary for the governorship in 2016. And they should.
Read how Telemundo pundit Jay Fonseca summarizes the fight over PREPA:
Summed up: Bhatia managed to gain the perception of fighting oil businesses, while favoring competition (a now widely held view among the public), Tirado got on the unions’ side, and can now publicly attack and sabotage Bhatia, while the Governor ended up being irrelevant.
[quote_center]”An irrelevant governor in public discourse, is a former governor in not a lot of time”
Joining the New Progressive Party, where Resident Commissioner and Party President Pedro Pierluisi is expected to face off for the gubernatorial candidacy against son of former governor Pedro Rossello, Ricardo Rossello, and possibly against former Senate President, and current Senator Thomas Rivera Schatz, the PPD is now facing the very real possibility of a divisive internal process to select its candidate for the top political job in the territory; the first time in the party’s history.
Recently, Garcia Padilla confirmed his intentions of seeking reelection. For comparison, former Governor Luis Fortuño did so towards the end of his term. Fonseca says this is because there are concrete movements of concern to him in his own party, and the rumors back that theory:
EXCLUSIVA: Pues resulta q el Agente 00Senado me alega que YA Bhatia conformó un Equipo Exploratorio para correr para Gobernador en el 2016!!
— La Vieja Changa (@condadofashion) October 24, 2013
The NPP has been here before, most recently in 2004, when it won the general election except for the governorship, and in 2008 when it managed to get its gubernatorial candidate elected with the highest amount of votes in Puerto Rico’s history. Another primary won’t be a major problem come November 2016; penepes are now used to some internal fighting before coalescing around their candidate.
But that’s not the case with their red counterparts. Especially when there’s a possibility of someone challenging the sitting governor. That would be a first, for any party. And this is all happening 10 months into their first term in power. We personally can’t wait to see what goes on the next 3 years.
With this scenario, in the extremely premature political predictions conversation, we give the advantage of the moment to the NPP. They might be divided now, but the party and its base have experience dealing with primaries, and one of the candidates was also the elected official who got the highest amount of votes in the last election. They’re facing a party that is a newcomer to primaries, with a governing coalition that is breaking apart in its first year of government.
It’s looking like the territory will have its fourth consecutive one term governor.
In the meantime, grab the popcorn, enjoy the show and follow La Vieja Changa, because she called Bhatia’s intentions on September 3:
EXCLUSIVA: El reconocido político que YA tiene un Comité Exploratorio es nada más y nada menos que el Presidente del Senado @eduardobhatia !
— La Vieja Changa (@condadofashion) September 3, 2013