A late night of surprises in island municipalities

Ponce flips to the PDP, San Juan switches to the NPP, and several other municipal races appear headed toward unexpected results

By José A. Sánchez Fournier

Twitter: @Sanchez Fournier

Special to The Star

Despite the slow going of the vote counting process, some municipalities considered bastions of old-school politics were looking like sure bets to remain unchanged by Tuesday’s election. However, other mayors vying for re-election must have been sweating bullets early Tuesday night due to preliminary numbers that were less than favorable.

William Miranda Torres seemed to be one of the lucky few in the first group. A second-generation mayor, Miranda Torres has been able to maintain the immense popular support his late father, former mayor William Miranda Marín, had among the people of Caguas, a stronghold of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP). By 7 p.m. last night, you could hear celebratory fireworks in Caguas, where exit polls had “Willito” ahead in the mayoral race with New Progressive Party (NPP) candidate Roberto López in second place, and Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) candidate Jason Domenech Miller in third. However, as the night wore on, López closed the gap and by 8:30 p.m. the once clear lead for Miranda Torres had become a neck-and-neck race, with the incumbent slightly in front.

Ponce mayor María Meléndez Altieri was clearly in the latter group, in what would be considered by many as a small upset if the early numbers held. Meléndez Altieri, a three-term incumbent and member of the NPP, would lose to PDP candidate Luis Irizarry Pabón, who was to become the first PDP mayor of Ponce since one-term mayor Francisco Zayas Seijo held office from 2005 to 2009.

“This town was a disaster when I got to city hall and I gave all of me to make it better. I will never be ashamed of that,” a teary-eyed Meléndez Altieri said late last night at a press conference where she conceded.

Meléndez Altieri explained why she waited for her granddaughter to arrive at the press conference before commencing her speech.

“I wanted to show her that sometimes you do the right thing and you still lose,” the mayor said.

In San Juan at press time, the NPP’s Miguel Romero had a comfortable lead over PDP candidate Rossana López León and Citizens Victory Movement candidate Rep. Manuel Natal Albelo, who nevertheless had a strong showing and was close to López León in the vote tally.

The first incumbent to admit defeat yesterday was Guayanilla Mayor Nelson Torres Yordán. The PDP politician conceded to the NPP’s Raúl Rivera Rodríguez before the clock struck 7 p.m.

“My congratulations to mayor-elect Raúl Rivera, and my best wishes for him to continue bringing this town to its feet,” wrote Torres Yordán.

“I already contacted Raúl to let him know my intention of meeting with him this week to discuss the projects already in place to aid in the reconstruction of Guayanilla,” the mayor added.

Meanwhile, early numbers had Arecibo as a toss-up between NPP incumbent and former Corrections Secretary Carlos Molina Rodríguez and challenger Carlos “Tito” Ramírez Irizarry.

Maunabo was the site of another upset, with NPP candidate Ángel Omar Lafuente Amaro defeating incumbent Jorge Luis Márquez Pérez of the PDP.

“Our victory is the result of teamwork, of a campaign based on believing in including one and all in our plans. Because we are all part of Maunabo,” said the apparent winner, who said his strategy was anchored in going door to door and speaking to constituents.

“I walked all of Maunabo and spoke to everyone about our plans and projects,” Lafuente Amaro added. “The people of Maunabo heard me and blessed me with their vote and their trust.”

In Lajas, incumbent Marcos A. Irizarry Pagán of the PDP had apparently defeated Jayson “Jay” Martínez of the NPP. Although official numbers from the State Elections Commission were just starting to trickle out at press time, unofficial exit polls had Irizarry Pagán as the winner.

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