Frank Perdue once proclaimed, “It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken."
The same can be said in an economic sense about Gov. Luis Fortuño of Puerto Rico, who walked into a spiraling financial mess when he assumed leadership of the United States territory in 2009.
He swiftly moved into action, lowering taxes, creating jobs, investing in education, and perhaps most importantly, reducing the tropical island’s crushing deficit by a whopping 90 percent.
"And guess what?" the governor told the Republican National Convention. “Our private sector — the real economy — began to create jobs again.
|Luis Fortuño (AP Photo)
"Imagine if we had national policies that support rather than prevent growth. We’d then be able to truly unleash the engine of prosperity that our country and our people deserve."
The well-liked governor — a member of the island's New Progressive Party, the PNP — is running for a second term. He has been credited with sparking Puerto Rico’s economic rebirth — a feat particularly impressive since the island is not constitutionally required to produce a balanced budget.
But it became a priority for Fortuño, 51, who quickly slashed the budget of $13 billion by $2 billion, partially by cutting back on political appointees, getting rid of redundant government employees and even cutting his own salary by 10 percent.
The changes mean that if all goes according to plan, Puerto Rico will have a balanced budget next year.
In addition, unemployment in Puerto Rico has dropped from a high of 16.4 percent to 13.7 percent during his term.
Fortuño’s aggressive moves have made him a role model for many young Republican leaders who’ve seen that by taking tough, not necessarily popular, steps, government can function efficiently.
Not surprisingly then, Fortuño has aligned with Mitt Romney when it comes to no-nonsense ways in how to cure the government’s economic woes.
|Alejandro Garcia Padilla (Getty Images)
And the Romney campaign has extensively aired a new Spanish-language TV commercial, "Nuestra Comunidad," featuring Fortuño.
Fortuño is running against Sen. Alejandro Garcia Padilla, a Puerto Rican Senator at-large and President of the Popular Democratic Party of Puerto Rico.
Padilla, 41, has been leading in the polls, but Fortuño is catching. The latest, taken in early October for San Juan's El Nuevo Dia newspaper, had the challenger up by just two percentage points, 41 percent to 39 percent.
With the race that tight, the number of vote that three minor party candidates, who have all been polling in the single digits, can grab could be decisive.
The Nov. 6 ballot will also include a question on whether Puerto Rico should seek statehood — which is supported by Fortuño — or whether it should remain a commonwealth, a position backed by Padilla.
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