LAWRENCE - Former Mayor William Lantigua has dumped the Democrats and changed his voter registration to unenrolled in what his friends say is a first step toward retaking the Massachusetts House seat he gave up to Marcos Devers four years ago.
The switch allows Lantigua to launch a political comeback as an independent in November and signals how estranged he has become from the state’s Democratic establishment, which lined up against him during his failed bid for a second term last year.
Lantigua lost that race to Daniel Rivera in a dramatic recount by just 83 votes out of about 15,200 cast.
“He hasn’t told me for sure he’s going to do it, but he’s told me he’s considering the possibility” of running for the 16th Essex House seat, said Alfonso Garcia, an administrator for Lawrence public schools who also is a political columnist, radio talk show host and Lantigua insider. “Everyone in the 16th District that supported him for mayor is going to support him for whatever he wants to do.”
Lantigua did not return phone calls seeking to confirm his possible return to politics. Isabelle Malendez, who managed Lantigua’s campaign last year, would not comment on the former mayor’s future, saying she has left politics.
The timing of his switch to unenrolled suggests Lantigua is laying the groundwork for another campaign, this time as an independent, which would allow him to bypass the Democratic primary and go directly to the general election ballot in November. He became a man without a party on Feb. 25, the last day for candidates to pick the line they would run on in the fall.
The contest would be the fourth between Lantigua and Devers, both Dominicans, in a city where their rivalry has become political legend. The two faced off for the Statehouse seat in 2006 and 2008 and in September’s preliminary election for mayor. Lantigua won every time.