By Associated Press
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Puerto Rico voted Tuesday to oust an incumbent governor who is under indictment for allegedly violating campaign finance laws, electing a challenger who vowed to fight crime and spur the island's troubled economy.
Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila conceded the election after Luis Fortuno of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party took a strong lead in early returns.
"I want to congratulate governor-elect Luis Fortuno," Acevedo said at the headquarters of his Popular Democratic Party. "It was a hard battle against all imaginable and unimaginable obstacles."
Fortuno had 53 percent of the vote to 41 percent for the governor with 42 percent of ballots counted.
The governor had urged islanders to support him despite a 24-count indictment charging him with wire fraud and other offenses for allegedly raising money illegally to pay off campaign debts from his terms as Puerto Rico's nonvoting delegate to Congress from 2000 to 2004.
He is scheduled to go on trial in February.
Acevedo's party favors maintaining Puerto Rico's semiautonomous relationship to the U.S. while Fortuno's wants the island to become the 51st state.
But the island's relationship to the U.S., a central theme in Puerto Rican politics, was not the main issue in this election. The vote was largely a referendum on the governor, who presided over the creation of an unpopular sales tax, increases in electricity and water rates and the unraveling of the local economy. Unemployment recently hit the highest level in years.
Fortuno, the island's delegate to Congress, or resident commissioner, had pledged to spur the economy and do more to reduce a homicide rate that is higher than much of the mainland U.S.
"The people tonight have said they are tired of the old-style politics and they want us to get to work to solve their problems," he said in a victory speech.
Voters on the island of 4 million people also were choosing a new delegate to the U.S. Congress as well as 27 local senators, 51 representatives and 78 mayors. Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens but do not vote in the U.S. presidential elections.