LAWRENCE - Mayor William Lantigua's campaign against the petition effort to recall him may be having an unintended impact on the race for City Council, where candidates say they are having trouble getting signatures on nominating petitions because of Lantigua's direction to voters that they should sign nothing.
Lantigua's "Yo No Firmo" campaign against the recall on Facebook and YouTube, where he has posted a video of himself that also implores "No Firme Nada," has left many nerve-racked voters unwilling to sign nominating petitions even for candidates who support the mayor, several of the candidates said yesterday. "Yo No Firmo" translates to "I won't sign," while "No Firme Nada" translates to "Don't sign anything."
The Rev. Edwin Rodriguez, who is leading the recall petition against Lantigua, refused to release the number of signatures the group already has.
Several candidates said Lantigua's supporters are repeating the message in telephone calls and in door-to-door canvassing
"When I go to their home to try to get their signatures, they say, 'Listen, I can't sign anything because they came over here and told me not to sign anything,'" said Ivan Cruz, a downtown resident running for an at-large seat on the City Council. "They think if they sign anything, it would be the recall petition, so we're having a hard time getting our signatures."
At-large candidates run citywide and need the signatures of 100 registered voters to get on the September primary ballot. Candidates running to represent any of the six districts in the city need 50 signatures.
"The whole issue of (Lantigua) telling people not to sign any document — they don't understand," said Chally Ramos, who already has submitted petitions for an at-large seat on the Council. "It's obviously confusing a lot of people out there."
"Some Spanish people think it's Willy recall," said Francis Cialek, who has been petitioning to get on the ballot to represent District F in South Lawrence on the Council and said he opposes the recall effort.
"I show them this," Cialek said, pointing to his name on his nominating petition. "'Francis Cialek. District F.' They say they don't want to sign anything. They're confused."
Lantigua did not respond to a request for an interview left with a secretary at his City Hall office yesterday.
Brian McNiff, a spokesman for the Secretary of State's Elections Division, said he was not aware that the division has received complaints from candidates alleging Lantigua has injected confusion into the council races.
"I can't see where it's doing anything wrong," McNiff added. "He's relating (his "don't sign anything" slogan) to a campaign against him."
Several candidates said they worry that Lantigua's supporters are delivering his message with implied enforcement.
"There's a lot of housing projects in my district and people fear retaliation," said City Councilor Grisel Silva, who represents a downtown district north of the Common and is one of Lantigua's most frequent antagonists on the Council. "I represent one of the toughest districts in the city, with more people in public housing and with fixed incomes. They're afraid of losing any type of benefit because of retaliation."
"The reaction out there is, 'I'm not going to sign any documents because I know he's going to get back at me," Ramos said. "That shouldn't be happening in the city."
"They're just nervous," Cialek said.
Sixteen candidates have taken out petitions to run for the six district seats on the Council, including all six incumbents; 12 candidates have taken out petitions to run for the Council's three at-large seats, including all three incumbents and Edwin Rodriguez, who is leading the recall drive.