Puerto Rico is about to see a lot of changes.
The governor-elect of the island, Sen. Alejandro Garcia Padilla, is much different from exiting Gov. Luis Fortuño. Garcia Padilla is a Democrat from the island’s Popular Democratic Party who believes in keeping the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, while the New Progressive Party’s Fortuño has been called a rising star in the Republican Party and has actively campaigned in favor of statehood for Puerto Rico as early as his days in Georgetown University.
Unlike Fortuño, Garcia Padilla studied in Puerto Rican universities—the University of Puerto Rico for his bachelor’s degree in political science and economics, and the Interamerican University Law School.
Some of the harshest criticism against Fortuño came due to the way he cut the University of Puerto Rico’s budget, and how he stood by his head of police after students were beaten and arrested during protests. Garcia Padilla may handle things differently when it comes to the university, being an alum and having a brother who served as president of the university for eight years.
Puerto Rico’s Garcia Padilla in politics
He seems to have politics in his blood. Another one of his brothers—the governor-elect is the youngest of six—is mayor of his hometown of Coamo. Garcia Padilla himself has been involved in public service since he joined Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila’s administration in 2005, when he served as head of the Department of Consumer Affairs (DACO). He was often seen inspecting stores in person during back-to-school and holiday sales, and it endeared him to many Puerto Ricans.
When Fortuño won in 2008, Garcia Padilla was also elected to public office, to the senate. In that election, he was the senator at-large that got the most votes.
Son of a World War II veteran and a homemaker, he will bring with him the youngest kids La Fortaleza—the governor’s mansion in Old San Juan—will have seen in years, once he takes office on Jan. 2. Garcia Padilla has three children—Ana, Juan Pablo and Diego—with his wife Wilma Pastrana.
Many people are surprised with the outcome of the election, since the last polls gave Fortuño the edge. However, the thousands of voters who elected Garcia Padilla into the office of governor on Tuesday seem to be breathing a sigh of relief. The results of the election show the majority of voters grew tired of Fortuño and his administration. Even Puerto Rico’s top newspaper, El Nuevo Dia, reflected this. In an editorial published on Thursday, titled “Rejection to Arrogance,” the newspaper said voters had had enough and were conscientious when they headed to the polls on Tuesday. The editorial heavily criticized Fortuño and his party, saying they needed to take a long hard look at themselves.
Being the second-youngest governor ever elected in Puerto Rico, many have criticized Garcia Padilla’s inexperience. But he vows to unite Puerto Ricans and put the country on the right track. Only time will tell.