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Puerto Rico’s Delegate Won’t Run Again

Resident Commissioner Aníbal Acevedo-Vilá, Puerto Rico’s non-voting delegate in the House of Representatives, announced late last month that he will not run for a second term in 2004.

Acevedo-Vilá’s decision appears to be related to Puerto Rico Gov. Sila Calderón’s May 22 announcement that she will not seek re-election. Both were elected in 2000, and both are members of the Popular Democratic Party, which favors maintaining the island’s commonwealth status rather than seeking statehood.

Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner is an anomaly in the House, serving a four-year, rather than two-year, term. Acevedo-Vilá defeated his predecessor, Carlos Romero-Barceló of the New Progressive Party, a former mayor of San Juan who fought for Puerto Rican statehood during his eight years in Congress, by 4 points. Like his predecessor, Acevedo-Vilá affiliated with Democrats on the Hill.

PDP officials want Acevedo-Vilá, 40, to run for mayor of San Juan in 2004, and the delegate said in a statement that he is considering several possibilities.

“Various people have approached me asking for me to return to serve in Puerto Rico,” Acevedo-Vilá said. “In addition to evaluating [running for] mayor of San Juan … I am considering other options, always having in mind the best interests of Puerto Rico and of the PDP.”

Acevedo-Vilá, who has an advanced law degree from Harvard, spent eight years in the Puerto Rico House and was also a top adviser to then-Gov. Rafael Hernandez Colon.

PDP has tapped Puerto Rico Sen. Roberto Prats Palerm to try for Acevedo-Vilá’s seat in 2004. No other candidates have come forward.

Calderón, whose years as governor have been plagued by an increase in homicides and a lackluster economy, may have had trouble being re-elected — a poll published by the El Nuevo Dia newspaper May 20 showed her trailing likely opponent (and former two-term governor) Pedro Rossello of the New Progressive Party by 7 points. Nonetheless, by most press accounts, her decision to retire stunned the island community and her party.

While PDP leaders were disheartened by Calderón’s decision — she is the commonwealth’s first female governor — her opponents made hay.

“She was doing things publicly that no candidate would ever do,” NPP Sen. Kenneth McClintock told the Orlando Sentinel. “She saw she wasn’t reaching goals she wanted; she’s 61 [sic] years old; she’s got a boyfriend; she’s a millionaire; he’s a millionaire. Why not enjoy life?”

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