EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 30, 2012

Abdoo may challenge Lantigua reelection bid

Criticizes mayor for 'carrying on as if he were king'

By Brian Messenger

---- — LAWRENCE — David Abdoo, the former city councilor who lost the 2009 mayoral election to William Lantigua by 1,038 votes, yesterday derided Lantigua as “delusional” for planning a reelection bid next year.

Abdoo said he will consider challenging the mayor in the city election slated for the fall of 2013. Lantigua, who took office in January 2010 as the city and state’s first elected Hispanic mayor, announced Friday he will seek a new four-year term.

“This guy’s delusional,” said Abdoo. “There is not a demand for his return. This is just another example of a man that’s tone deaf to the world around him. ... The idea of him running is outrageous.”

Lantigua earned 7,095 votes in 2009 to Abdoo’s 6,057 (54 to 46 percent). Abdoo ran for mayor as a 10-year veteran of the Lawrence Planning Board and a first-term city councilor representing District E, which covers the western portion of South Lawrence.

A Lawrence native, Abdoo said he attended Lantigua’s inauguration in January 2010 in an effort to “help heal racial wounds” in the city.

Abdoo, 45, said his involvement in city politics the past three years has been limited to signing a pair of unsuccessful recall petitions put forth with hopes of removing Lantigua from office. But he said he’s yet to speak out publicly against the mayor until now.

“Since the day — the hour — I lost, I made a point of being deferential to the mayor,” said Abdoo. “He’s divisive. It’s really broken my heart because he had a unique opportunity to lead all of Lawrence.

“Instead he’s been more interested in patronage, seemingly weekly trips to the Dominican Republic, and frankly carrying on as if he were king. It’s just been very disappointing.”

Lantigua and Abdoo were finalists in a 2009 mayoral primary that saw 10 candidates enter the race.

Abdoo works for the federal government as a public affairs officer but said he will consider another run for mayor. He said he already has support from a “cross-section of Lawrencians,” including several former Lantigua supporters who now want “a new beginning.”

“I’m not ruling out running for mayor,” said Abdoo. “I’m certainly going to be part of the political solution this year. All options are on the table.”

Lantigua announced his candidacy for a second term Friday night at Rio Bar & Grill on Appleton Street, just a short walk from City Hall.

Lantigua is a Dominican immigrant who came to the United States when he was 19.

He had served as a state representative since 2003 before succeeding former Mayor Michael Sullivan, who served two terms and could not run again in 2009 due to term limits.

In an exclusive interview with The Eagle-Tribune, Lantigua on Friday said he brought the city back from near-bankruptcy and a $30 million deficit after he took office. He also touted three consecutive years of balanced budgets, repaved streets and a lower unemployment rate.

Lantigua also said he would have been willing to step aside if enough voters had urged him to do so, but that has not happened.

“Where he sees that message (to run again) I don’t know,” said Abdoo. “I want to get the message out that this will not stand.”

Abdoo said the city’s balanced budgets are a credit to the City Council and Robert Nunes, Lawrence’s state-appointed fiscal overseer. But he said they’ve still come at the expense of public safety and quality of life issues in the city.

Abdoo also noted the state takeover of the Lawrence Public Schools and the ongoing investigation into the Lantigua administration, which has led to the indictment of two top officials, police Deputy Chief Melix Bonilla and the mayor’s former Chief of Staff Leonard Degnan.

Bonilla is accused of improperly transferring the ownership of 13 police cars to an automobile dealer while Degnan is alleged to have pressured a waste contractor to send a trash truck to the Dominican Republic. Both men pleaded not guilty.

Abdoo called on state and federal law enforcement officials to move forward with their investigation.

“Where is the District Attorney? Where is the US Attorney? Where is the accountability?” said Abdoo. “They need to take action. They need to either bring it to a head or end these grand juries.”