If Ricardo Rossello has things his way, this is going to be one of the last elections where there are a mere 50 American states voting. The New Progressive Party candidate has a big lead in the race to become the island's next governor, and he has come out as a strong supporter of the movement to make the US territory of 3.5 million people the 51st state. "We feel statehood or the lack thereof is one of the critical root problems in Puerto Rico," the 37-year-old scientist and son of a former governor tells the AP. He says statehood is the best way to revive the economy of the island, which has been in a recession for a decade and is $70 billion in debt.
Rossello says he plans to hold elections for senators and representatives that will be sent to Washington to demand statehood, a tactic that the AP notes worked for Tennessee in 1796. "We reserve the right to use all means necessary so we can finally finish the 500-year debacle that has been colonialism," says Rossello, who also plans to draft a state constitution. According to the latest polls, per Univision, Rossello is at 41%, 8 points ahead of his nearest rival, David Bernier of the anti-statehood Popular Democratic Party. (Puerto Ricans backed statehood in a 2012 referendum.)