By Keith Eddings
---- — LAWRENCE — State Rep. Marcos Devers said he may announce his candidacy for mayor at a rally at a downtown nightclub next week, when he said he may jump into the race if the crowd is big and the reception is enthusiastic.
“I’m going to see what the people are asking me to do,” said Devers, who served as an acting mayor for three months in 2001 and ran unsuccessfully for the job in 2005 and 2009. “I’ve heard different opinions. Some people have said, ‘You’re doing a great job (as a state representative). Don’t get into this mess in the city. Keep doing what you’re doing.’ Others say, ‘We need your leadership in the city.’ I’ll weigh that.”
The two-term Democratic state representative would be the fifth into the race for mayor, which already includes the incumbent, William Lantigua, who announced his run for a second four-year term in a similar fashion at the same nightclub on Dec. 29, when he said the turnout of about 100 people convinced him to run.
Also in the race are City Council President Daniel Rivera, accountant Nestor DeJesus and inventor James O’Donoghue.
Next Saturday night’s rally at Rio’s Bar and Grill is being organized by a group of local business and media leaders, including several who supported Lantigua in his first race in 2009 but said they have been disillusioned by his leadership. They include Rafael Guzman, owner of RM Technologies, a construction firm; Spanish radio personality Randy Reyes and Beatriz Perez, who writes for El Mundo, a Spanish newspaper based in Boston that circulates in the Merrimack Valley.
“He missed a very good opportunity,” Guzman said yesterday about why he is switching his support from Lantigua. “Look at the numbers: We lost the school department (to state control). We have a financial overseer. Crime went up. Our unemployment is almost double the national rate and more than double the state rate, still hovering around 13 percent. And of course, the city hasn’t been the main actor. It’s just been the mayor. Too much time has been spent on Mayor William Lantigua, not enough on the people.”
Lantigua could not be reached yesterday.
Devers, 62, immigrated to Puerto Rico from the Dominican Republic in 1982 and moved to Lawrence five years later. He taught science at Lawrence High School and math at Greater Lawrence Technical School for 16 years, and now works as an engineer for a company he owns.
He was elected to the City Council in 1999, on his fifth attempt. He served as acting mayor for three months in 2001, after former Mayor Patricia Dowling resigned to become a judge. His brief career as the state’s first Latino mayor — Lantigua was the first to be elected — ended in November 2001, when he returned to the City Council after Michael Sullivan was elected mayor. He served as council president from 2002 to 2004 and left the council to run against Sullivan in 2005.
He ran and lost again in 2009, finishing behind Lantigua and David Abdoo in a preliminary election. The following year, Devers won a special election for the statehouse seat Lantigua quit after becoming mayor.
He won the seat with Lantigua’s support, but their relationship has been uneven since then, although few of their disagreements have been publicly aired. He was elected to a second two-year term last year, easily turning back a challenge by former state Rep. Jose Santiago.
The seat is the 16th Essex, which is entirely within Lawrence’s city lines.
One early indicator suggests the road will be uphill for Devers if he makes a third run for the third-floor corner office overlooking Campagnone Common at City Hall. His campaign organization had just $880 in the bank on Dec. 31, and $13,400 in liabilities, all of it loans from himself, his campaign finance reports show. Only about two dozen individuals and organizations contributed to his 2012 re-election campaign, a base he will have to expand significantly in a race for mayor that is expected to cost the two candidates who make it past the preliminary election close to $100,000.
Lantigua had $15,684 on hand on Dec. 31; Rivera had $14,131.
Devers, a father of four, lives in a three-bedroom ranch on Woodland Street in the Prospect Hill neighborhood with his wife, Victoria, a teacher in Lawrence schools.
Banks began foreclosure on that house two years ago, and last year began foreclosure on a second house they own next door. Records show they continue to own both houses. They own a third house in Florida.
The preliminary election is Nov. 17. The general election is Nov. 5.