By Keith Eddings
---- — LAWRENCE — Mayor William Lantigua won 48 percent of the vote against five challengers in Tuesday’s preliminary election, topping second-place finisher Daniel Rivera by a margin of better than 2-1.
But Rivera’s finish was good enough to get him on the ballot with Lantigua in the general election on Nov. 5, and yesterday he told a cheering, sign-waving crowd at his first rally of the campaign that the number that matters isn’t 48.
“Fifty-two percent of the people who went out to vote voted against this mayor,” Rivera told about 200 supporters at the northern foot of the Casey Bridge, a site Rivera said he chose for the rally because the bridge links the city’s mostly Anglo south side with its mostly Latino north. “If the election had been one-on-one, he would have lost by 600 votes.”
Rivera’s math assumes that he would have won all of the 3,435 that went to the four of Tuesday’s also-rans, including three who joined him at yesterday’s rally to ask that their supporters switch to Rivera.
Each of the three echoed what is shaping up to be a central theme of the Rivera campaign: that Lantigua has divided the city and run a government that has benefited only his inner circle.
“I am Dominican. I am American. I am Lawrencian. And I’m a fraction Puerto Rican,” Rep. Marcos Devers, who came in a distant third Tuesday, told the crowd. “What we see here is what we’re looking for. We need a city for all of us. Not just for a little group, not just for an egotistical person and his little circle.”
Devers and Lantigua have had a complex, uneven history over the last decade or so, including what is now four elections for state representative and for mayor where they’ve faced off. Although Lantigua beat Devers every time, Devers waited until Thursday to say he would endorse Rivera and attend his rally.
Juan “Manny” Gonzalez, a city firefighter who came in fourth on Tuesday, and James O’Donoghue, an inventor who came in fifth, also attended the rally. Sixth-place finisher Nester De Jesus, an accountant, did not attend, but Rivera said he has his support.
Devers and O’Donoghue also picked up some support from Rivera at the rally. He told Devers that he would work to “make sure you’re going to be state rep for a very long time.” For O’Donoghue, he promised that “we’re going to get that train,” referring to the high-speed commuter train the inventor has proposed to connect Lawrence and Boston.
“That river doesn’t divide us,” Rivera told the rally, referring to the Merrimack. “It makes us stronger. We’re going against all those old cliches: north versus south, poor versus rich, Anglo versus Latino.”
Lantigua also had an odd, juxtaposing presence at Rivera’s rally. One of the city’s flashing electronic message boards appeared at the foot of the Casey Bridge a few days before the preliminary election, urging residents of “the Great City of Lawrence” to recycle their waste at the request of Mayor William Lantigua. The board flashed its message and the mayor’s name from the edge of Rivera’s hour-long rally, providing a curious backdrop but drawing little attention.