By Pedro Valenzuela Parcero
Nuevo León is the economic capital of Mexico’s industrial north. It is on the U.S.-Mexico border, accounts for 7.5% of Mexico’s GDP, and is home to flagship Mexican companies, such as CEMEX (one of the world’s largest producers of building materials), ALFA (multinational conglomerate that includes petrochemical products, auto components, and refrigerated foods) and GRUMA (largest corn flour and tortillas producer in the world).
However, the importance of Nuevo León is also political. In 1997, the PAN won the governorship, but the PRI recovered it in 2003. Since then it has remained under PRI control. Recent polling by Reforma suggests the current electoral competition in the state has two interesting and contrasting tendencies.
1) The PRI candidate, Ivonne Álvarez, leads voting preferences with 32.8%. In second place, there is a tight race between Felipe de Jesús Cantú from the PAN and Jaime Rodríguez, an independent candidate, with 24% and 21.7% of preferences, respectively. This case is particularly interesting because in Mexico it is extremely rare for a candidate with no party affiliation to be in a competitive position for the most important political post in the state.
Jaime Rodríguez, nicknamed “El Bronco,” has been a politician for more than 30 years. He was mayor of García, a suburban municipality of Monterrey (the capital of Nuevo León). A former member of the PRI, he is famous both for his strong character and for having survived two attacks by drug-trafficking organizations. In fact, he is also the candidate with the highest approval ratings among the population with 54%, slightly ahead of the PRI and PAN candidates with 53% and 49%, respectively.
2) Opinions from leaders (academics, opinion leaders and the business community) contrast with the general population survey. In the leaders survey, the PAN candidate leads preferences with 41%, followed by Movimiento Ciudadano candidate, Fernando Elizondo, with 26%, Jaime Rodríguez with 18%, and Ivonne Álvarez with 10%.
Fernando Elizondo is also an interesting case, as he was interim governor for the PAN in 2003 and then Senator (2006-2012). He left the PAN in 2014, but he distinguished himself by having a good image among both the population and the leaders in his state.
Given these factors, the campaign for the governorship of Nuevo León promises to become more interesting as the election approaches.