With Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón (NPP, R) running for Governor of Puerto Rico in 2024, candidates in the New Progressive Party (NPP) and Popular Democratic Party (PDP) are gearing up to run for the open seat. While the PDP seems poised to select candidate Pablo José Hernández to run, the NPP is struggling to find a candidate, though potential candidates include former Governor Ricardo Roselló and former Secretary of State of Puerto Rico Larry Seilhamer.
Hernández has begun campaigning across the island, emphasizing the need to focus on economic development rather than Puerto Rico’s political status. Hernández also attacked the NPP for favoring certain groups on the island with the proposed plebiscites rather than working to ensure “economic wellbeing” of all Puerto Ricans. He suggested there needs to be more federal funding in programs for the elderly and children, along with funding for housing.
Besides speaking with political leaders in Puerto Rico, Hernández also traveled to Virginia to meet with Senator Tim Kaine (D). In their discussions, Hernández said Congress needs to create more tax incentives and bring manufacturing to the island. The candidate also discussed issues with Social Security, SNAP, Medicare, and Medicaid.
In his exploration committee announcement, Hernández said, “ I believe that the PDP needs new ideas and the commonwealth needs new defenders. Puerto Rico carries 20 years of electing PNP resident commissioners. 20 years of disrupted priorities, wasting time with sterile and undemocratic plebiscites. After 20 years, I believe that Puerto Rico needs a renewal in Washington to promote its true priorities of development and economic wellbeing.”
The does not have NPP declared candidates yet, with Roselló and Seilhamer being the only major politicians whose names have come up. Another major potential candidate, Health Secretary Carlos Mellado López, recently declined to run, which could benefit Hernández. Another complication is the NPP primary for Governor, with incumbent Governor Pedro Pierluisi (NPP, D) and González-Colón splitting the support of the party.
While Rosselló’s name has appeared in the conversations around the nomination, Pierluisi denied the possibility, saying the former governor was not interested in returning to politics. Pierluisi and González-Colón will likely select Resident Commissioner candidates to run with them in the NPP primary. González-Colón approached Adjutant General Jose Reyes of the Puerto Rico National Guard, though he indicated no interest in politics. The current Resident Commissioner also reached out to Seilhamer, though Pierluisi could also run with Seilhamer on the ticket. Still, Pierluisi said he would wait to endorse a candidate in the race, though Seilhamer is leaning towards running and is already gaining support from some NPP politicians. Other possible candidates include Representative José Enrique Meléndez, Senator William Villafañe Ramos, and the Executive Director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, Luis Dávila Pernas.
The election of Hernández as Resident Commissioner could signal general dissatisfaction with the NPP and its focus on the political status of the territory. Still, an NPP candidate could emerge and continue González-Colón’s work on the Puerto Rico Status Act.