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September 18, 2013

A raucous night at City Hall as mayor leads five challengers with 48 percent

LAWRENCE – Mayor William Lantigua piled up nearly 48 percent of the vote against five challengers in yesterday’s preliminary election, outpacing runner-up Daniel Rivera by a margin of better than 2-1 in a race that drew a heavy turnout, was monitored by the state and ended with several raucous outbursts at City Hall, including one that turned violent and another that nearly did.

Lantigua and Rivera, who is vice president of the City Council and won 23 percent of the vote, will face each other in the general election on Nov. 5.

State Rep. Marcos Devers, who was making his third run for mayor, came in a distant third with about 16 percent of the vote. Firefighter Juan “Manny” Gonzalez, who was making his first run for elective office, received just under 9 percent. Nester De Jesus and James O’Donoghue accumulated only a few hundred votes between them.

The victory was a formidable one for a mayor who has led an administration dogged by scandals, indictments and two unsuccessful recall attempts. He finished first in 21 of the city’s 24 precincts and second to Rivera in three South Lawrence districts.

But it was a victory with an underside. Four of the challengers have said they would endorse whoever made it onto the ballot with Lantigua in November, suggesting that Lantigua needed to come close to 50 percent yesterday to claim he could win even if all five of the others coalesce against him and are able to deliver all their voters.

The anti-Lantigua coalition of candidates showed signs of fracturing as Lantigua piled up his numbers last night. Gonzalez and O’Donoghue endorsed Rivera after the polls closed, but Devers said his earlier pledge was informal and said he is reassessing it.

Lantigua seemed more than satisfied by his margin as he spoke to a jubilant, overflow crowd of about 200 supporters that spilled out of his campaign headquarters and onto Essex Street, where his speech was piped to the outside onto a loudspeaker that echoed his voice down through downtown. Deputy Police Chief Melix Bonilla, who managed Lantigua’s 2009 campaign and has since been indicted on corruption charges, stood close to Lantigua’s side for much of the evening.

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