By Keith Eddings
---- — LAWRENCE — An inventor and an accountant have jumped into the race for mayor, joining incumbent William Lantigua and City Council Vice President Daniel Rivera in a field that has been filling up since nominating petitions became available Wednesday.
The race for the three at-large seats on the City Council also got more crowded yesterday when Nilka Alvarez-Rodriguez, a former city councilor who ran for mayor in 2009, became the eighth candidate to pick up petitions for one of the citywide seats.
In the race for mayor, Nestor DeJesus, an accountant who ran for City Council in 2009, picked up petitions yesterday. James O’Donoghue, a self-described inventor who has made a career campaigning for a magnetically levitated rail system that he says would cut the commute from Lawrence to Boston to eight minutes, picked up petitions last week.
DeJesus said he is running to improve economic development, education and public safety. “He’s only working to improve the streets,” DeJesus said about Lantigua. “The city of Lawrence needs other care.”
DeJesus’s son, Nestor Jr., is an assistant financial officer in the city’s Department of Community Development. His brother, Jorge, works for the Department of Inspectional Services.
O’Donoghue could not be reached yesterday.
Several others also are considering entering the race for mayor, including state Representative Marcos Devers, city firefighter Juan “Manny” Gonzalez and David Abdoo, a media affairs specialist for the federal Department of Health and Human Services in Boston who was the runner up against Lantigua four years ago.
The race for the City Council is the first step in what will be a significant shakeup on the council next year, when it will lose its president, vice president and budget committee chairman. President Frank Moran has served on the council for three terms, but is giving up his seat a year after he was elected to the statehouse and held both offices. Rivera, who chairs the council’s budget committee in addition to serving as vice president, is giving up his seat to run for mayor.
At least five of the seven remaining incumbents —Roger Twomey (at large), Sandy Almonte (District A), Estella Reyes (District B), Eileen Bernal (District E) and Marc Laplante (District F) — are seeking new terms. Councilors Kendrys Vasquez (District C) and Oneida Aquino (District D) did not return phone calls or emails seeking to learn their plans.
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.
After picking up petitions yesterday, former Councilor Alvarez-Rodriguez said she wants to return to the help it resolve issues that have languished for years.
“I think we’re rehashing a lot of the things we were going through when I was on the council,” she said, including the ongoing debate about what to do with the 100 or so alleys that were abandoned by the Essex Co. 20 years ago, which have become magnets for vagrancy, drug use and prostitution. “I’d like to see them move onto other issues. It seems if we had more institutional knowledge on the council, we could move a lot faster.”
Two candidates have picked up petitions to run for the city’s School Committee, a body that was stripped of its powers last year when the state took over city schools and appointed a receiver to run them, citing chronic underachievement.
Incumbent James Blachford will run for a second term, representing District F. Homayoun Malli is running in District E, now represented by Patricia Mariano.
For the Greater Lawrence Technical School Committee, only incumbent Leo Lamontagne has picked up nominating petitions. He is running for his 15th, two-year term.
Candidates for mayor need 250 signatures to get on the ballot in the preliminary election. 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.