By Mark E. Vogler
LAWRENCE — Calling it "a beautiful and sunny day," Mayor-elect Daniel Rivera spoke to a crowd of 100 in Campagnone Common at noon yesterday, promising his administration "will bring sunshine into City Hall."
More than five hours later, Mayor William Lantigua stood on the TV camera-lit sidewalk in front of his campaign headquarters letting his attorney Sal Tabit of Broadhurst Tabit LLC in Methuen, answer reporters' questions about whether he plans to concede to Rivera (no) or call for a recount (maybe) of the vote. Both the mayor and lawyer left reporters, literally and figuratively, in the dark.
“I just don’t think it’s fair to tell you, ‘Yes, the mayor is going to call for a recount, or no, he’s not,’ when we don’t even have the official votes in yet,’” Tabit said.
The ways the two candidates dealt with the public illustrate their differences. Rivera spoke in the daylight, to anyone and everyone in attendance. Lantigua waited until dark, saying virtually nothing in public. Then he picked a few supporters and reporters — nearly all representatives of Hispanic media — to hear his thoughts on the election.
An Eagle-Tribune news reporter, several television reporters and other members of the press were not allowed inside for the public statement that Lantigua said he would make.
While the Lantigua campaign has been criticized for isolating itself, Rivera's has focused on inclusion. Unlike Lantigua, he has engaged in debates and forums, talked to the public and gone door-to-door during his campaign to talk to residents. Yesterday at his rally, Rivera also talked about inclusion.
"There is one other number that counts: 76,000," Rivera said, referring to the number of city residents. "And to every single resident of the city of Lawrence, I promise I will get up every day to diligently and professionally work to improve their lives and our city's future. This election was about the future of our city and today we begin the job of making Lawrence better."
Both men seem confident in the fact they they are each the true winners of yesterday's election. Tabit said the mayor has 10 days to request a recount of the votes, but had made no decisions because of other voting issues that could result in a win.
Those issues include reports of jammed machines at several polling locations, raising concerns as to whether votes were counted or excluded, Tabit said.
There were also provisional ballots cast by people whose voting status needs to be verified. There are other potential votes to be considered from absentee ballots that haven't arrived yet from oversees. Those ballots needed to be postmarked before or on election day and received by the Election Division within 10 days.
"Everything is so fluid," Tabit told reporters. "We have no idea what that total might be."
Meanwhile, all those votes remain locked in a sealed vault under armed guard at City Hall.
"These 24 precincts are locked in a safe at City Hall. I doubt the National Archives are as secure as these ballots. There are three police officers around them," Tabit said.
The security measure was taken at the request of Rivera's campaign, after it became clear that the election would wind up close.
"We will defend every vote and we will make sure this election does not get stolen," Rivera said during his rally yesterday.
Rivera called on the Secretary of the Commonwealth's Office for close monitoring of this year's mayoral race, expressing concerns about voter irregularities and the potential for fraud. Yesterday, he praised the agency's efforts to guarantee city voters a fair election.
He also noted that the race has been a divisive one and called on the mayor to help in the transition period for when the new administration takes office in January.
"We're clearly divided as a community," Rivera said. "That has to stop. We do have a lot of hurt people. There's no reprisals. There's no anger on this side. We're anxious to make Lawrence better together."