“After I suspended collective bargaining for two years and froze all salary increases, we had some pushback,” Fortuño says. “Some people called me a fascist. That’s mostly over, but there will be more attacks from the unions.”

The country’s biggest public-sector unions, such as AFSCME and SEIU, are investing in Fortuño’s defeat, organizing rallies and fundraising drives. Richard Trumka, the AFL-CIO president, has called Fortuño “anti-worker.”…

But Fortuño didn’t stop with budget cuts. His energy policy has ignited a debate about the future of the Puerto Rican economy, which relies heavily on imported oil. Environmentalists can’t stand the proposed $450 million natural-gas pipeline.

Fortuño knows that the project will be opposed by liberals every step of the way. But focusing on the protests, he says, misses the point. According to the New York Times, “Puerto Ricans pay almost three times the national average for electricity.”