The Miami Herald
Wed, Nov. 5, 2008

Embattled Puerto Rico governor soundly defeated


Puerto Rico Gov. Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, facing charges of campaign finance fraud, was trounced at the polls Tuesday by the island's nonvoting representative in Congress, who easily sailed to victory in what his supporters called a ``historic landslide.''

Resident Commissioner Luis Fortuño's margin at the polls was so vast that Acevedo conceded defeat before even a third of the ballots were cast. With 41 percent of the vote counted, Fortuño had 53.6 percent against Acevedo's 42.32 percent.

Fortuño, 48, a Republican and statehood supporter, is a member of Puerto Rico's New Progressive Party.

The election was a departure from the island's traditionally razor-thin election margins.

Acevedo is a member of the Popular Democratic Party, which advocates more autonomy under the island's current commonwealth status.

But the decades-old debate over Puerto Rico's status was overshadowed this electoral season by the indictment of the governor on more than 20 federal campaign finance fraud charges.

Acevedo was indicted earlier this year for allegedly cheating on his campaign finances by listing straw donations on his campaign books in order to cover up illegal contributions. He's also accused of taking lavish trips with his family and getting expensive suits with party funds. With rising crime and a recession costing tens of thousands of jobs on the island, Acevedo faced an impossible challenge.

''I would like this moment to congratulate the governor-elect of Puerto Rico: Luis Fortuño,'' he said in his concession speech. ``It was a tough battle against all the obstacles imaginable, and even the unimaginable.''

Fortuño, 48, is a graduate of Georgetown University and the University of Virginia Law School. He was a partner at a San Juan law firm, and in the 1990s, was executive director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Co. and secretary of the Department of Economic Development and Commerce under former New Progressive Party Gov. Pedro Rosselló.

''I am committed to restoring faith and productivity in Puerto Rico,'' Fortuño told The Miami Herald in an e-mail last week. ``That is what the people need in order to jump-start our economy and improve our quality of life.''