Some 20 municipalities—especially those affected by recent earthquakes—moved away from their traditional political affiliations.
The shuffling of political-party affiliation in approximately 20 of the island’s 78 municipalities is one of the most notable outcomes of the election in Puerto Rico.
Some of the municipalities that flipped were important strongholds for the New Progressive Party (PNP by its Spanish initials) or the Popular Democratic Party (PPD by its Spanish initials), the two main traditional political parties on the island.
One of the most surprising changes happened in Ponce, where Mayor María “Mayita” Meléndez lost after three terms. The PNP official lost by a wide margin: Dr. Luis Irizarry Pabón of the PPD won with 63% of the votes.
Ponce is one of the southern municipalities that has suffered severe earthquake damage since the beginning of 2020.
Guánica, another municipality severely affected by quakes, will also see a change in administration. Current PNP-affiliated Mayor Santos Seda ended up in the third position after Edgardo Cruz became the first mayor in Puerto Rico’s history to win an election without appearing on the ballot, but rather as a write-in candidate.
Cruz is a retired Air Force soldier. He obtained 2,041 votes while the PPD candidate, Ismael “Titi” Rodríguez Ramos, tallied up to 1,962. Seda’s total came up to 1,953.
In Guayanilla, PPD Mayor Nelson Torres lost against Raúl Rivera of the PNP, who won with 4,748 votes. Torres’ votes tallied up to 3,357. The municipality was severely damaged by a 6.4 magnitude earthquake on Jan. 6.
Santa Isabel Mayor Enrique “Quique” Questell, affiliated with the PNP, lost against Rafael “Billy” Burgos Santiago of the PPD, who obtained 50.4% of the votes.
San Lorenzo’s PPD Mayor José “Joe” Román will conclude a 19-year term after being defeated by PNP candidate Jaime Alverío. The candidate won with 7,451 votes, compared to Román’s 7,291.
The San Juan mayoral race was one of the most hotly contested during the election. In the early hours of the ballot count, PNP candidate Miguel Romero trailed behind Movimiento de Victoria Ciudadana (MVC) candidate Manuel Natal. Later on, Romero surpassed Natal with a 2,232 vote difference. Natal is claiming irregularities in the scrutiny process and has requested a recount.
Carmen Yulín Cruz of the PPD had been mayor of San Juan for eight years.
On Tuesday, Francisco Rosado, president of the Puerto Rico State Elections Commission, confirmed the sudden discovery of 174 boxes filled with uncounted ballots at the Coliseo Roberto Clemente in San Juan, where votes are being counted. He did not specify the precise quantity of ballots contained in the boxes.
“I can tell you there were many votes in there,” the president of the commission said at a news conference.
During the past four years, politicians have had to deal with the additional challenges brought upon by Hurricane María in 2017, the earthquakes this year, and the pandemic affecting the island since mid-March.
Puerto Rico’s government has been plagued by corruption. Famously, former Gov. Ricardo Rosselló was forced to resign in August 2019 after a chat-room scandal.