- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 6, 2016

Sen. Marco Rubio won the Republican presidential primary in Puerto Rico Sunday, according to projections by news organizations.

With about a quarter of the votes counted, Mr. Rubio had nearly 75 percent of the votes.

It will be the second primary win for the Florida senator, who trails far behind front-runner Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in the race for delegates to secure the nomination.

Economic woes affected the election itself. Edwin Mundo, electoral commissioner for Puerto Rico’s Republican Party, said budget cuts forced it to reduce the number of polling places to 110 from more than 3,000 in 2012, dramatically reducing turnout.

Voters said in interviews that they want a U.S. president who will help the island emerge from a decade of recession and a debt crisis that threatens basic government services.

“We need a radical change,” 53-year-old Richard Suarez said as he waited to cast a ballot for Rubio in Guaynabo, a city in the San Juan metropolitan area. “Otherwise, we’ll be stuck in the same situation and will have to keep asking the U.S. government for favors.”

Residents of the island cannot vote in the general election in November but they can take part in the party primaries.

No candidate has had a major presence in Puerto Rico this cycle, though Rubio visited the island Saturday for the second time in seven months There have been no publicly released polls.

Politics in Puerto Rico generally revolves around the island’s relationship to the U.S. One major party favors statehood and the other wants to maintain the current semi-autonomous commonwealth status. A small minority favors independence. The pro-statehood party has traditionally attracted Republicans and anyone taking part in the primary must sign a pledge to support the effort to become the 51st state.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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