By Keith Eddings
---- — LAWRENCE — Voters will be treated to highly competitive races for mayor and the at-large seats on the City Council in the Sept. 17 preliminary election, but there will be no contests for half the council’s district seats and for most seats on the School Committee.
Mayor William Lantigua and five challengers got a tentative approval for the preliminary ballot by yesterday’s deadline for submitting petitions, when election clerks verified the signatures on their petitions and sent them along to the Board of Registrars for a final review. A total of 21 candidates for the City Council’s three at-large and six district seats also saw their petitions verified and sent to the registrars.
Edwin Rodriguez, the pentecostal minister who led a failed effort to recall Lantigua last year, did not submit the nominating petitions he circulated, saying the ballot wasn’t large enough for two Puerto Ricans. He said he had collected 700 signatures until city firefighter Juan “Manny” Gonzalez - a Puerto Rican, like Rodriguez - picked up petitions.
Besides Lantigua and Gonzalez, the preliminary ballot for mayor will include State Rep. Marcos Devers, City Councilor Daniel Rivera, accountant Nestor DeJesus and inventor James Patrick O’Donoghue. The top two vote-getters will go on to the general election Nov. 5.
The race for the three at-large Council seats also produced a deep list of candidates. The 12 approved for that ballot are incumbent Roger Twomey, former Council members Modesto Maldonado and Nilka Alvarez-Rodriguez, School Committeeman Francisco Surillo, Vocational Technical School Committeewoman Denise Perrault, former School Committee member Mark Gray, former city Human Rights Commissioner Fancisco Brea, former City Councilor Jorge Gonzalez, businesswoman Wendy Luzon, lawyer Cara Martinoli, private investigator Chally Ramos and Maria de la Cruz.
Councilor Rivera is giving up his seat to run for mayor. City Council President Frank Moran also is giving up his seat after holding it for a year while also serving as a state representative.
The City Council’s six district seats generated less interest. District C incumbent Kendrys Vasquez, District B incumbent Estela Reyes and District F incumbent Marc Laplante will not be challenged. District A incumbent Sandy Almonte will face Rosa Pina. District E incumbent Oneida Aquino will face Marta Rentas. District D incumbent Eileen Bernal will face Kathleen Runge. With no more than two candidates for any of the six seats, the ballot Sept. 17 ballot for the district council seats will match the Nov. 5 ballot.
No one sought a seat on the School Committee in District A, which would allow incumbent James Vittorioso to continue serving until the seat until the City Council makes an appointment.
Vittorioso said he would be willing to continue serving in the seat, but noted that the School Committee has no power since the state took over management of the city’s schools in 2011. The committee has not met in more than two months.
“I feel useless on that committee,” Vittorioso said yesterday. “But such is life.”
Others apparently are sharing the sentiment. Among the six School Committee seats, only two will be contested. In District D, newcomers Angel Garcia will face Jeovanny Rodriguez. In District E, Homayoun Maali will face incumbent Patricia Mariano. With no more than two candidates for each seat, the School Committee ballots in September and November will be identical.
All three incumbents on the committee that runs the Lawrence Regional Vocational School will walk to re-election without a challenge, so that ballot also will be the same on Nov. 5.
Voters have until 5 p.m. Friday to challenge signatures on nominating petitions with the Board of Registrars.