Jeb Bush reiterated his support for Puerto Rico statehood on Tuesday, telling a crowd that he’s long been a backer of the movement to make the U.S. territory the 51st state.
The former Florida governor and likely presidential candidate made the comments during a string of public events on the commonwealth, where he spent months campaigning for his father, George H.W. Bush, during his failed 1980 presidential campaign.
“Puerto Rican citizens, U.S. citizens, ought to have the right to determine whether they want to be a state. I think statehood is the best path, personally,” he said at Universidad Metropolitana de Cupey in San Juan. “I have believed that for a long, long while. I’m not new to this.”
With its primary awarding delegates, Puerto Rico is a popular stomping ground for presidential contenders. Mitt Romney picked up 20 delegates in the commonwealth during his primary battlewith Rick Santorum in 2012.
Bush, who is fluent in Spanish and whose wife is from Mexico, spearheaded his father’s campaign in Puerto Rico back in 1980, helping him win the primary.
The push for statehood remains the biggest political flashpoint regarding the commonwealth. Proponents say statehood will help grant Puerto Rican citizens more rights and benefits as the 51st state, while opponents say it will increase their tax bill and dependence on the U.S. government. Puerto Ricans currently do not pay personal income taxes.
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