By Keith Eddings
---- — LAWRENCE — Mayor William Lantigua yesterday reached out to two bitter political rivals in an 11th-hour effort to restore a quorum to the disabled board that oversees elections in the city in time for the special primary election for U.S. Senator on April 30.
Half the effort flopped immediately because one of the men Lantigua attempted to recruit to fill the two vacancies on the Board of Registrars is not enrolled in a political party. The two empty seats on the four-member board are reserved for Republicans. Democrats hold the other two seats.
In his effort to restock the board yesterday, Lantigua attempted to recruit David Abdoo, who ran against Lantigua in 2009 and is considering running again this year, and former Mayor Michael Sullivan, who Lantigua regularly blames for the mess he said he inherited.
In a letter emailed to both men, Lantigua said the need to restore the quorum on the board was “urgent.”
Abdoo is not enrolled in a political party, making him ineligible to fill either of the vacant seats. Sullivan is a Republican and is eligible.
“He’s asking me to apply?” Abdoo said yesterday, hearing of Lantigua’s invitation for the first time from The Eagle-Tribune. “Michael Sullivan too? I’m profoundly surprised.”
Lantigua refused to debate Abdoo in the 2009 mayoral campaign, saying he “hasn’t earned it.” Abdoo received 46 percent of the vote. On Dec. 29, one day after Lantigua announced he would run for a second term, Abdoo dismissed him as “delusional” for thinking he could win it.
“There is not a demand for his return,” Abdoo said at the time. “This is just another example of a man that’s tone deaf to the world around him.”
Lantigua and Sullivan also have little affection for each other. Most recently, in his Feb. 5 State of the City address, Lantigua said his success balancing three budgets was “hard to do when you come into a city facing a $30 million deficit.” (In fact, the deficit was $24 million).
All that history evaporated in the e-mails Lantigua sent to the two men yesterday.
“As a former City Councilor and nominee for Mayor of this great city, I think you will be a great complement to this board,” Lantigua said in his letter to Abdoo.
“As a former Mayor, City Councilor, former state committee member and current member of the local republican committee, I can’t think of a better representative on this board,” Lantigua said in his letter to Sullivan, lower-casing the word Republican.
Sullivan could not be reached yesterday.
The Board of Registrars became incapacitated with the resignation of Lynne Garcia on Jan. 25, leaving it one member shy of the three needed to conduct business. Garcia’s resignation followed the Nov. 13 resignation of Robert Martin, who quit the Board of Registrars to join city’s Licensing Board in an effort to help Lantigua end a similar crisis over membership on that board, which also had been unable to conduct business for months because it had no quorum.
Boards of Registrars oversee elections in Massachusetts municipalities, a duty that includes ruing on voter challenges, conducting recounts and certifying results.
Brian McNiff, a spokesman for the Secretary of State William Galvin, who oversees local election efforts, said his office was following developments in Lawrence. He would not comment on what it would mean if the city’s Board of Registrars can’t function through the upcoming elections.
State law requires mayors to submit nominees for the Board of Registrars to their city councils, but also allows them to make temporary appointments without the approval of their councils.
Ana Medina, one of the two members now serving on Lawrence’s Board of Registrars, is a temporary appointment who Lantigua put on the board on Nov. 3, 2011. The other member is City Clerk William Maloney, who serves ex-officio. If Lantigua makes temporary appointments to fill the two vacancies on the board, it would mean that none of its four members will have been approved by the City Council.