PDP chooses Legislature leaders
By Pedro Correa Henry
Special to The Star
After Popular Democratic Party (PDP) President Carlos Delgado Altieri had invalidated on Monday a previous legislative conference, PDP leaders reunited Wednesday at their headquarters in Puerta de Tierra to vote for the next leaders of both legislative chambers.
At-large senator-elect José Luis Dalmau unanimously became the Senate president, earning the confidence of the party’s full delegation to the upper chamber.
“I appreciate that trust, and that trust I am going to return to the people of Puerto Rico,” said Dalmau as he recognized his colleagues “for rescuing senatorial districts” by bringing them back to the PDP.
The Senate president added that “we have to compose a very diverse Senate” as every constituent party, including the New Progressive Party, Puerto Rican Independence Party, Citizens Victory Movement, Dignity Project, and independent senator-elect José Vargas Vidot will have representation in the upper chamber.
“There’s the possibility that the Senate might have five spokespeople, that if we include the majority, we might have six spokespeople; this is a great challenge which has the parliamentary right expressed in the Puerto Rico Senate,” Dalmau said as he invited other parties to open themselves up for dialogue.
As for senator-elect Juan Zaragoza, who had been mentioned as being interested in leading the Senate, Dalmau said no voting session was needed as the former Treasury secretary agreed to support Dalmau after conversations between the two following the primary elections.
Meanwhile, Zaragoza said that “what prevailed during the process was the desire to carry the message that the Senate and the PDP delegation are united.”
As for becoming the Senate vice president if current senator Anibal José Torres is not re-elected, Zaragoza said he would be up for other leadership roles “if the group agrees with it.”
As for the House, at press time, although media outlets reported that Hernández was elected by a 14-12 vote over representative-elect Jesús Manuel Ortiz as House speaker, PDP spokesperson José Cruz said that “all information about the voting session that has been released is false.”
“The PDP Secretary-General left the meeting because he is finding out about all the information and asked us to tell the media that, at the moment, all information about the voting session is not correct,” said Cruz.
The tight voting session has come amid a controversy that began last Friday when in a caucus Hernández claimed victory as House speaker along with José “Conny” Varela and Lydia Méndez as vice presidents. Afterward, Ortiz said “it wasn’t the time to hand out positions” given the absence of other legislators at the caucus.
Before Wednesday’s meeting, San Juan District 2 representative-elect Luis Raúl Torres arrived at PDP headquarters saying he was going to vote for Ortiz because “he represents what the people voted for.”
“As for him, and the majority of young leaders who are entering the House, he represents that new vision,” Torres said. “The difference that Jesús Manuel Ortiz established over [Rafael] ‘Tatito’ Hernández is that he combines youth and public experience.”
When a member of the press asked if he was changing his vote from Hernández to Ortiz, Torres replied that the premise was wrong as “no one was able to vote in that [Friday] session.”
“Tatito gathered his 16 supporters, and I was on Zoom, and they pushed me out from Zoom, he called me through my phone, and some nominations began. They nominated Tatito as speaker, they nominated the other one as vice speaker, they nominated another one, and what they said was: ‘Is there another candidate? No? [Elected] unanimously,’” he said. “There was no roll call for that voting session; it wasn’t a direct voting session. I was not supporting one, and then supporting the other. That is false.”
Meanwhile, Torres told reporters that it was still premature to vote for the House speaker and Senate president, noting that they should wait for the final certification from the State Elections Commission (SEC).
“No one here is elected. We are still in vote counting at the [Roberto Clemente] Coliseum, and some seats have narrow margins. My contest has only a 160-vote difference [from New Progressive Party District 3 candidate Ricardo ‘Chino’ Rey Ocasio],” Torres said. “But the governing board made a choice that, to prevent this controversy, we had to call this session; the possibly elected candidates were called, [and] we must vote now and those [votes] will be counted.”
According to the most recent results from the SEC, the PDP has just 26 seats, the minimum required for a parliamentary majority.