LAWRENCE — From a former public school assessed at $1 million that the city provides rent-free, Isabel Melendez oversees an umbrella group of anti-poverty programs that have made her a beloved patron of the city’s poor as well as a political kingmaker.
Last month, Mayor William Lantigua tapped Melendez to manage his re-election campaign, formally joining the forces of a woman who has won the loyalties of the city’s poor by the free services she provides and a mayor who for four years has given her the resources — also including free electricity, gas and sewer, water and maintenance services — to do it.
Ana Medina, a member of the city board that oversees elections, also is campaigning for Lantigua, attending rallies, sending checks to his campaign organization and covering her car and the hedges of the Marston Street home she shares with her parents with Lantigua stickers and signs. She also runs a local social service agency called Casa Dominicana that has received $28,000 in city funding under Lantigua, which appears to be its only source of revenue.
On Election Day on Nov. 5 and in the days that follow, Medina will be one of the three members of the Board of Registrars who could decide the outcome of the mayoral election by ruling on voter challenges, the validity of absentee ballots and other election issues.
Steve Kfoury, a former city councilman who manages the publications division of the state office that oversees municipal elections, made automated “robo calls” to residents across Lawrence on the day before the Sept. 17 preliminary election, urging them to turn out for Lantigua.
His boss, Secretary of State William Galvin, recently declined to investigate evidence of fraud inside the city’s Election Division and last week rejected a request from Lantigua’s challenger, City Councilor Daniel Rivera, to add to the handful of observers the office traditionally sends to Lawrence on Election Day.