Puerto Rico elects first independent Senator, hands overwhelming majority to NPP
On November 8, Puerto Ricans cast their votes in the Senate races, and in the islands’ senate elections, Puerto Ricans are allowed to vote for one senatorial candidate at large for the entire island in addition to the two senatorial candidates who will serve their particular district. In total there are 27 Puerto Rican Senators, 11 of whom are at large and 16 who represent the island’s eight distinct senatorial districts.
In first place of the at large race, with 10.75% of the vote was independent candidate José Vargas Vidot, a doctor specializing in drug rehabilitation. He was the first independent candidate ever elected as a senator in the history of Puerto Rico, racking up an impressive tally of 157,099 votes. Vidot was able to win senatorial districts San Juan I and Carolina VIII and he placed second in Humacao VII, Guayama VI, Bayamón II. In the municipal results, Vidot was consistently in the top three in vote count.
In second place was former president of the Senate of Puerto Rico, Thomas Rivera Schatz, who received 150,946 votes and 10.33% of the vote. In third came the only member of the Puerto Rican Independence Party in the top 11, Juan Dalmau Ramírez.
Incumbent senators Miguel A. Pereira, José Nadal, and Cirilo Tirado Rivera of the Popular Democratic party all lost their seats, but may end up serving in the Senate regardless, due to Puerto Rico’s constitutional clause guaranteeing a third of legislative seats to the minority. The party was able to retain three seats in the senate this election. Eduardo Bhatia, the current president of the Senate, received 105,494 votes winning 7.22% of the electorate. Rossana López, former Director of the Office of Affairs of the Elderly received 84,292 votes and got 5.77% of the electorate while Majority Speaker Aníbal José Torres got 5.62% of the vote with 82,051 votes cast. The New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico had better success, getting 6 candidates from the party into the senate including: Lawrence Seilhamer, Itzamar Peña, Zoé Laboy, Abel Nazario, and Margarita Nolasco. The 11 at-large senators who will assume office in 2017 and the percent of the vote they acquired are shown below.
The percent breakdown shows that the senate race was very competitive, no one candidate got a significant portion of the electorate. However, in a race with fifteen candidates, Jose Vargas Vidot’s 10.75%, especially as an independent, is still impressive.
In total 1,578,159 ballots were from 2,867,557 registered voters in Puerto Rico for a 55.03% turnout.