LAWRENCE — Mayor William Lantigua has lost his seat on the Democratic State Committee to a 25-year-old political neophyte in an election that sent mixed signals for Lantigua's prospects if he seeks a second term as mayor.
Freshman City Councilor Kendrys Vasquez handed the Lantigua his first-ever election defeat on Tuesday by winning three of the four municipalities that make up the district for the committee seat, which overlays the Second Essex and Middlesex Senate District.
Lantigua won 55.6 percent of the vote in Lawrence, but his 180-vote margin was not enough to overcome his narrow losses in Tewksbury and Dracut and the landslide against him in Andover, where he received just 19.2 percent of the vote. Overall, Vasquez won 52.5 percent of the vote in the district, according to unofficial returns.
Lantigua's margin in Lawrence was slightly morea than the 53.7 percent of the vote he received when he ran against David Abdoo in 2009. But Abdoo had been a policy director in the state Executive Office of Transportation, a legislative aide to state Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, a one-term City Councilor and a National Guard veteran.
Vasquez, a social worker, began in politics just last fall with his election to the City Council seat held by Modesto Maldonado. He said he spent nothing and did little campaigning to take the state committee seat from Lantigua, who made robocalls Monday night.
"I spent nothing," Vasquez said yesterday. "Not even one dollar."
Lantigua, who endorsed Vasquez for the City Council last year, did not return phone calls for comment.
While he topped the citywide vote count, Lantigua won just half of Lawrence's six wards. He won wards B, C, and D in North Lawrence, but lost wards E and F in South Lawrence and tied with Vasquez in ward A in North Lawrence.
By ousting Lantigua from the committee, Vasquez wrapped up an effort that began 18 months ago, when Lantigua endorsed two Republicans — State Rep. Paul Adams and Sheriff Frank Cousins — in the 2010 election. The endorsements infuriated several local Democrats, including Patricia Commane, the Andover Democrat who lost to Adams in the 17th Essex House district and began the effort to oust Lantigua from the party committee.
"I think people just wanted someone who's a true Democrat to represent them," Vasquez said. "He has supported candidates who are not Democrats."
Abel Vargas, a member of the Lawrence City Democratic Committee, said Tuesday's vote suggested Lantigua's unpopularity in the city, but also predicted no Democrat with much clout would challenge him next year.
"In the grand scheme of things, for a no-name to ever come that close to Willie is telling," Vargas said, using Lantigua's nickname. "There's no reason why Kendrys should come anywhere near him at the city level, Willie being who he is and how long he's been involved in city politics."
Lantigua served several terms in the Massachusetts House before he was elected mayor in 2009.
Vargas said a factor in Lantigua's loss is his recent "narrative," which he said is "constantly negative."
The narrative continued this week, when four city officials — including Deputy Police Chief Melix Bonilla, who managed Lantigua's mayoral campaign — received subpoenas to appear before a grand jury allegedly investigating criminal charges against Lantigua, and when it was reported that state Attorney General Martha Coakley is investigating alleged financial irregularities by Lantigua's campaign organization.
Kevin Franck, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Democratic Party Chairman John Walsh, yesterday said Vasquez is "one of our party's most promising young leaders."
The state committee governs party policy. Vasquez joins it in April and will serve a four-year term.
Also Tuesday, Commane was elected state committeewoman in the Second Essex and Middlesex district, and state Rep. Adams and Sheila Richardson were elected Republican State Committee members in the district.