SAN JUAN Ė The candidate expected to win the Puerto Rico gubernatorial contest sees U.S. statehood as crucial to resolving the heavily indebted and recession-racked islandís economic woes.
Nearly 2.9 million people are eligible to cast ballots on Tuesday, when Puerto Ricans will also choose legislators, mayors and the islandís non-voting member of the U.S. Congress.
The latest poll, released Sunday, shows the candidate of the pro-statehood PNP, Ricardo Rossello Nevares, with support from 41 percent of likely voters, compared with 33 percent for David Bernier, representing Puerto Ricoís other main party, the PPD.
The PPD wants to maintain Puerto Ricoís current political status as a U.S. commonwealth.
In what may be a sign of cracks in the PPD-PNP duopoly, independent contenders Alexandra Lugado and Manuel Cidre registered at 11 percent and 7 percent, respectively.
Rossello Nevares, the 37-year-old son of former Gov. Pedro Rossello Gonzalez, won the PNP nomination by defeating the far more experienced Pedro Pierluisi in the primary.
A scientist who has never served in public office, Rossello Nevares has made the quest for U.S. statehood the centerpiece of his campaign.
While his platform includes proposals to streamline the Puerto Rican government, stimulate manufacturing, and overhaul the schools, he says that his first act as governor would be to initiate the statehood process.
Regardless of the outcome on Tuesday, the next governor will have to deal with the financial oversight board imposed by Congress on Puerto Rico after San Juan defaulted on a portion of its more than $60 billion in public debt.
The board effectively has veto power over Puerto Ricoís budget and fiscal policy.