Amid a crushing economic malaise, millions of Puerto Ricans will go to the polls to vote on their preference for president and governor in the U.S. territory’s Democratic primary Sunday.
They also could push Hillary Clinton a lot closer to becoming the Democrats' presumptive nominee.
The primary has been almost overlooked with the much larger cache of delegates up for grabs on primaries Tuesday in a handful of states, including California.
But the close race in California, the aggressive push Bernie Sanders has been making in Puerto Rico and Puerto Rican’s exhaustion from the island’s economic crisis are drawing much more attention to the elections.
“There rarely is attention to the primaries in Puerto Rico and most of the time they are not held on the same days as the Puerto Rico primaries,” said Federico de Jesus, principal at FDJ Solutions.
Clinton, who has a long history in Puerto Rico was the victor on the island in 2008 against Barack Obama.
On Saturday, 60 delegates are at stake and frontrunner Hillary Clinton is widely expected to win.
What many watching will want to know is by how much? Whatever number of delegates she picks up in the race will put her that much closer to the 2,383 overall delegate goal that is within her grasp.
The island’s governor, Alejandro García Padilla, endorsed her earlier on Wednesday. He is not running for re-election.
“I think Hillary has the odds to win, but Bernie has definitely been very aggressive on his policy positions and on debt issues,” de Jesus said. “It’s not going to be a slam dunk, but I think she is going to win.”
Hoping to shore up his chances, Sanders said on Thursday he would introduce his own bill dealing with the Puerto Rico debt crisis, The Associated Press reported.
A House bill that has been approved by a U.S. House committee to deal with Puerto Rico’s financial crisis has drawn criticism, although it has won bipartisan and administrative support.
Clinton, like other Democratic supporters of the bill, has expressed concerns about parts of the bill, but wants to see it move forward to stop Puerto Rico’s problems from worsening.
Puerto Rico’s primary race for governor pits Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi, the island’s representative in Congress against Ricky Rosselló, the son of former Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Rosselló.
Pierluisi has been representing Puerto Rico in Congress since 2009 and served as its attorney general for three years.
He has dogged Congress for the past couple of years to take action to assist Puerto Rico and pushed his own legislation that would have allowed the territory to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy, as cities like Detroit have done. The legislation stalled.
Rosselló is a scientist who has focused work on stem cell research. He also has been a political commentator and founded a political advocacy group.
The debt crisis also spills into their campaign because Pierluisi has backed the House committee bill, despite disagreeing with parts of it. He opposed earlier versions of the bill that Republicans withdrew because they could not get enough support for its approval.