Ben Carson will endorse statehood for Puerto Rico tomorrow at an event with Ricky Rosello, a gubernatorial candidate for the pro-statehood party on the island, according to a source close to Rosello's campaign.
The source said the condition for Carson speaking at the event was that he come out for statehood. A request for comment from Carson's campaign on the endorsement was not immediately returned.
The issue of statehood for Puerto Rico, a commonwealth of the United States, does not neatly breakdown along traditional Democrat and Republican lines on the island, which is also dealing with a financial and health care crisis.
Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio have previously said they support statehood if Puerto Ricans vote for it. Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush have endorsed bankruptcy protections for the island, but Rubio does not.
While Puerto Ricans can't vote in the general election, 23 delegates will be awarded on the March 13 primary. Presidential candidates also use the island's politics to signal to Puerto Ricans in the U.S., particularly in Florida where they are a fast-growing group, that they care about issues that matter to them.
Carson's support of statehood comes a week before 13 Republican candidates are set to appear at the Sunshine Summit in Orlando, where much of the Puerto Rican population growth is concentrated.
Clinton and the Obama administration have said they support bankruptcy protections and fiscal oversight that come short of a federal bailout. In senate testimony on October 22, Treasury counselor Antonio Weiss said Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis is escalating. "Without federal action it could easily become a humanitarian crisis as well," he said.
Rossello, who is hosting the event Carson will attend, is a professor at the Metropolitan University of Puerto Rico running against the incumbent Alejandro Garcia Padilla, and has proposed a plan counter to the Obama administration. Writing in Forbes, he said he wants to dismantle the current government system, implement free market reforms and create an "independent mechanism" to manage the debt, a collaboration between Puerto Rico and the federal government.
Adrian Carrasquillo is the White House correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
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