Editor’s note: This is the first of a new series profiling the politicians of the United States territories, their history, positions, and future prospects.
Pedro R. Pierluisi has been the governor of Puerto Rico since 2021. His journey to becoming involved in Puerto Rican politics started during his childhood when he witnessed his father working as the Housing Secretary. He later went on to hold many roles in the Puerto Rican government before campaigning to become governor. This profile aims to cover an overview of Pierluisi’s background, influence, and political accomplishments to get a better understanding of Pierluisi’s beliefs that have shaped his policies as governor.
Pedro R. Pierluisi was born on April 26, 1965 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. His father, Jorge Pierluisi, was the former Puerto Rico Housing Secretary. Pierluisi studied American History at Tulane University and later went on to get his law degree at George Washington University.
After getting his law degree at George Washington University, Pierluisi was initially an attorney at a private practice in both Washington DC and Puerto Rico from 1984 to 1993. He then became the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in 1993 under Governor Pedro Rossello (NPP, D) and ended his term in 1996. He later became the Resident Commissioner, representing Puerto Rico in the US House of Representatives from 2009 to 2017. On August 2nd, 2019, Governor Ricardo Rosello of Puerto Rico resigned after his private messages that contained derogatory terms were leaked to the press. He swore in Pierluisi as the next governor. Pierluisi was earlier appointed Secretary of State by Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives and was the next in line for the position of governor. However, the Supreme Court has established that Pierluisi did not gain approval to become Secretary of State by both the House and the Senate. Therefore, Pierluisi was removed as governor. The Secretary of Justice, Wanda Vasquez, was later sworn in as governor. After being removed from office, Pierluisi campaigned for governor twice and was finally successful in 2021. He is currently serving as the governor of Puerto Rico.
Pierluisi’s policies as governor are influenced by his beliefs which align with the New Progressive Party on the local level and the Democratic Party on the national level. One of the major ideologies Pierluisi has is the belief in statehood for Puerto Rico. He strongly believes that one of the only ways Puerto Rico can truly prosper is by achieving statehood. He addressed the issue of Puerto Rico’s statehood as geographical discrimination by stating that there are over three million people in Puerto Rico lacking proper representation in Congress. He believes that becoming a state will allow Puerto Rico’s problems to be more easily solved or publicized if Puerto Rico can have a voting member in Congress.
When Pierluisi first entered office, he was forced to address multiple issues. Puerto Rico was in the midst of the pandemic, bankruptcy, and the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, which hit Puerto Rico in 2017. In addition to these challenges, Pierluisi faces skepticism from Puerto Ricans since he served as a lawyer for the board that has been pressing Puerto Rico toward drastic measures to combat the economic crisis. However, Pierluisi has painted himself as a figure who will use every dollar he can to help fund infrastructure projects to help rebuild after Hurricane Maria and help rejuvenate the economy.
Pierluisi has added public education, mental health advocacy, and environmental protection to his agenda. Pierluisi recently announced his plan to build more solar-powered infrastructure to address the high electricity costs among Puerto Ricans. His set agenda has addressed all of the main issues facing the island.
Recently, Pierluisi announced his plans for a tax reform proposal to alleviate citizens and companies of around $545 million. He aims to use this proposal to help the slow economic growth of Puerto Rico as well as help nearly bankrupt companies and increase citizen’s income.
Pedro Pierluisi has yet to announce his campaign for reelection in 2024 but is expected to face a primary challenge from incumbent Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon (NPP, R).