By Keith Eddings
---- — LAWRENCE — In the shadow of what is expected to be a crowded and contentious race for mayor, a shake up is underway on the City Council.
The council will lose its president, vice president and budget committee chairman on Dec. 31 in a remake that has been underway since Council President Frank Moran was elected to the statehouse in November. Moran has held onto his at-large council seat while also serving as a state representative, but will leave the council when his third two-year term runs out.
Daniel Rivera, the council’s vice chairman and the chair of its budget committee, is giving up another at-large seat to challenge Mayor William Lantigua. Rivera has served two two-year terms.
The departures are producing an avalanche of interest in the at-large seats.
Seven people have picked up nominating petitions for the three seats since they became available Wednesday, including incumbent Roger Twomey, who is running for a fourth term.
In addition, former councilor Modesto Maldonado last week picked up petitions for an at-large seat, as did Francisco Surillo, a member of the Lawrence School Committee; Denise Perrault, a member of the Greater Lawrence Technical School Committee; Samuel Reyes, a former school committeeman who ran for the council in District D two years ago; Peter Polito, who picked up petitions to run for the council in 2009 but did not make it to the preliminary election; and Francisco Brea, a former member of the city’s Human Rights Commission.
At least three of the six councilors who represent individual districts are running for new terms. They are Estella Reyes (District B), Eileen Bernal (District E) and Marc Laplante (District F).
Incumbent councilors Sandy Almonte (District A), Kendrys Vasquez (District C), Oneida Aquino (District D) did not return phone calls or emails seeking to learn their plans.
In addition to the petitions he picked up for an at-large council seat, Samuel Reyes picked up petitions to represent District D, making him the only challenger to emerge in the six districts. Aquino defeated Reyes two years ago, 607 to 432.
Among the incumbents, only Twomey would speculate about who might be the council’s president, vice president or budget chair next year. Twomey, who is 83, said he would seek the presidency, but would not comment beyond that. Council presidents appoint committee chairs.
Laplante is in his fourth term, making him the council’s senior member. He chairs the Housing Committee and is Mayor Lantigua’s most outspoken critic on the council. Two years ago, Lantigua managed the campaign of the candidate who challenged Laplante.
“If the mayor’s policies and positions advance the city and improve the condition of the people in my district, I’m going to be supportive,” Laplante said about the role he has assumed. “When things go off the tracks, I have a responsibility to call him on it.”
Aug. 7 is the deadline for submitting nomination papers. Candidates running to represent one of the six council or School Committee districts need 50 signatures. At-large candidates and candidates for the Greater Lawrence Technical School need 100 signatures.
The preliminary election is Sept. 17. The general election is for Nov. 5.