Lantigua still behind in Lawrence mayoral race after provisional ballot review

LAWRENCE—William Lantigua remained 57 votes behind in his reelection bid after a review of provisional ballots on Friday night, bringing him another step closer to being out as mayor of the city of Lawrence.

The ballots were reviewed in a public session in City Council chambers on Friday after Tuesday’s mayoral election that saw Lantigua lose to Councilor at Large Dan Rivera by an unofficial count of 60 votes. With the new 57 margin, Rivera again claimed victory.

“It clearly is now statistically impossible for the mayor to, even in a recount, come close to what we have,” said a beaming Rivera, who was surrounded by supporters.

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Rivera also renewed his call for Lantigua to concede the race.

“We invite him to join in the good judgment of the people of this community,” Rivera, 42, said, adding that he hopes Lantigua is a part of a “smooth transition” for the city.

Lantigua, 58, whose administration has been dogged by state and federal corruption investigations, did not attend Friday’s session.

Sal Tabit, his election lawyer, refused to say afterward if the mayor will seek a recount.

But Tabit added that more than 200 ballots were counted by hand during the election and “humans make mistakes.”

“There’s a reason why we have these electronic ballot machines,” Tabit said. “And I think that we’re more prone to error” in hand counting.

The Board of Registrars accepted 19 provisional ballots on Friday out of roughly 50. Lantigua captured 11 of those votes to Rivera’s eight. The mayor had trailed Rivera by 60 votes before the session.

At least nine ballots remain in question, and city officials are meeting on Tuesday to continue their review.

Brian McNiff — spokesman for Secretary of State William F. Galvin, which supervised the city’s Nov. 5 elections—said earlier in the week that official winner of the mayoral race could be announced as early as Nov. 15.

Lantigua also has until that date to request a recount, which could prolong the process.

Rivera said Friday that he has not spoken with Lantigua since the election, and that a recount would be frivolous.

“It’s expensive,” he said. “Honestly, it’s just time-consuming, and honestly, inevitable.”

But Tabit, Lantigua’s attorney, said candidates routinely seek recounts in close races, while stressing that the mayor had not yet made a decision.

“In Brockton, there’s a 55-vote difference,” he said of that city’s mayoral election, adding that he believes the losing incumbent has suggested she may seek a recount.

“I don’t see all the reporters down there hounding her about statistical analysis in votes as to why she should ask for a recount,” he said.

Lantigua, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, made history in 2009 when he was elected the state’s first Latino mayor. Seventy-four percent of residents in Lawrence are Latino.

But his term has been marked by controversy, with three allies indicted on state corruption charges and a fourth convicted last month in federal court of bribery, lying to a federal agent, and obstruction of justice.

Lantigua has not been charged with any crimes and has denied any wrongdoing.

Tabit said Friday that the mayor was not ducking the public by not attending the meeting.

“He’s not hiding,” Tabit said. “It’s been a tough couple of days for everyone involved. It was a heated campaign. It was a close race. I think at this point, he thinks that it’s best to let his lawyers evaluate what evidence there might be ... and then make a reasonable determination from there.”

Rivera was more blunt when asked for his take on why Lantigua has been difficult to spot since the election.

“I’m not sure that’s different from [how] it’s been in the past,” he said.

But the unofficial mayor-elect quickly struck a more diplomatic tone.

“I think in this moment, we’re trying to bring people together,” he said. “He has his ways, and that’s the way it is, and I’m not trying to make fun of that.”

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