Puerto Rico House of Representatives District 16

Welcome to the Boricuas4Democracy blog! Our first project is a deep dive into precinct-level results of each Puerto Rico House of Representatives district for the 2020 Governor’s race and political status plebiscite. This is the first post in that series.

Today we’ll be taking a look at House District 16 (HD-16), comprising the municipios of Isabela, San Sebastian, and Las Marias. The largely coastal town of Isabela makes up 47% of the district and has traditionally been a PPD-tilting tossup. It also happens to be the hometown of the PPD’s gubernatorial candidate Charlie Delgado Altieri, where he was the mayor from 2001-2020. The mountain town of San Sebastián also makes up a significant portion of the district at 43%, and has tended to lean more firmly towards the PPD. Finally, there’s the sparsely populated town of Las Marías, which has been a pretty swingy tossup and contains 10% of the district.

In 2020, Charlie Delgado won this district by 6.6%, driven largely by his strength in his hometown of Isabela. His 12 point margin in Isabela was the 5th-largest margin of victory for a candidate in any of the 78 municipalities. He was particularly strong in the coastal area and city center north of the PR-2 highway (highlighted in orange), while in the mountains south of it the race was a bit closer. In San Sebastián, the town center was pretty evenly divided while the outlying areas combined to give Delgado his small 4 point margin. Finally, in Las Marías, Pedro Pierluisi’s margins in the town center were enough to give him a 4 point win.

Despite the pro-statehood PNP losing HD-16 by 6.6%, that margin was reversed on the status plebiscite, with “Yes” to statehood winning by 6.1%. Statehood saw particular strength in Las Marías and central San Sebastián, while the strongest anti-statehood areas were coastal Isabela and the Isabela-San Sebastián border. Statehood outran the PNP’s margins the most in Isabela, with a 17.7 point overperformance for statehood. In San Sebastián and Las Marías, this overperformance was more modest at around 9%.

The precinct loyalty map shows how Yes on statehood was able to outperform the PNP so greatly. In Isabela, 11 precincts out of 22, concentrated around PR-2, voted for statehood while voting for Charlie Delgado. San Sebastián also had plenty of crossover, with 9 out of its 20 precincts voting for statehood while voting for Delgado.

Looking at the plebiscite results by income can give us a sense of how income is distributed across the district and how this correlates to support for statehood. The top quartile of wealth is concentrated in the coastal and downtown parts of Isabela, in an area that for the most part rejected statehood. Both the second quartile (largely based in outlying San Sebastián) and the third quartile (scattered across the district with a concentration in downtown San Sebastián) voted for statehood by a slim margin. However, the poorest quartile, concentrated in southern Isabela and Las Marías, voted for statehood by a pretty wide margin, with only one of these precincts voting against it. San Sebastián shows less of a correlation between income and support for statehood than Isabela and Las Marías, as precincts are split roughly half and half for and against statehood regardless of income level. On the other hand, the richest parts in northern Isabela and the poorer parts in Las Marías and southern Isabela show a pretty compelling pattern of opposition to statehood being linked to higher incomes.

Join us next time as we analyze House District 17 and start to see how these trends hold up across the territory, or not.

Maps by Noel Arroyo
Written Analysis by Francisco Proskauer Valerio