Gov. Luis Fortuno (PNP)
Elected: 2004, 3rd term.
Born: Oct. 31, 1960, San Juan .
Education: Georgetown U., B.S.F.S. 1982; U. of VA, J.D. 1985.
Family: Married (Luce).
Professional Career: Practicing atty., 1985-2004; Sec., PR Dept. of Econ. Dev. and Comm., 1994-97.
Luis Fortuño, a member of the New Progressive Party (PNP), was elected governor of Puerto Rico in 2008. Fortuño grew up in San Juan and graduated from Georgetown University and the University of Virginia law school. He practiced corporate law at a San Juan law firm until Gov. Pedro Rosselló appointed him executive director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company in 1993. In 1994, he became Puerto Rico’s first Economic Development and Commerce secretary. In 1996, he returned to private practice. Like some but not all members of the PNP, he identifies with the mainland Republican Party. In 2001, he became Puerto Rico’s Republican National Committeeman, and in 2004 he won an election to become Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner, the island’s representative in Congress.
Puerto Ricans tend to vote along strict party lines, and the results in 2004 were very close. Fortuño won 48.5%-48.0%, outperforming his party’s candidate for governor (who narrowly lost) by only 0.5%. That made Fortuño the first Republican to represent Puerto Rico in the House since 1904. This was also the first time Puerto Rico has elected a split ticket, sharply divided on the key issue of Puerto Rico’s status. The pro-statehood Fortuño frequently quarreled with the Popular Democratic Party’s (PPD) Gov. Aníbal Acevedo Vila, who supports the island’s current commonwealth status. Fortuño co-sponsored a bill with Rep. Jose Serrano, D-N.Y., based on the December 2005 White House task force recommendation for a two-step referendum, the first vote on whether to retain the current status, the second, if it is rejected, to choose between independence and statehood. He opposed New York Democratic Rep. Nydia Velazquez’s bill for a constitutional convention in Puerto Rico, which was more likely to lead to Acevedo’s choice of “enhanced commonwealth,” arguing that Acevedo’s proposal that Puerto Rico set its own foreign and trade policies was unrealistic. “Three administrations have told you what you are proposing is unconstitutional. What part of no don’t you understand?” But to get unanimous approval for his bill in the Natural Resources Committee in October 2007, Fortuño agreed to compromise between his bill and Velazquez’s. The bill never reached the floor.
In February 2007 Fortuño announced he would challenge Acevedo in 2008’s gubernatorial election. Acevedo was in a difficult position. He had been elected by just 48.4%-48.2% after a lengthy court battle, and he had fought with a PNP-controlled Senate and House about how to best deal with Puerto Rico’s declining employment and severe fiscal problems. Their fights had resulted in a government shutdown in 2006. In March 2008, Acevedo was indicted on 19 counts of using campaign funds for personal expenses and accepting family trips as far afield as China and $37,000 worth of clothing. He proclaimed his innocence and allies accused the prosecution of harboring political motivations. He was acquitted in March 2009, but the trial severely damaged his re-election chances. Fortuño won his election 53%-41%, the biggest victory in a Puerto Rico gubernatorial election since 1964.