By Yadira Betances
---- — LAWRENCE — Citing “doubts” by thousands of supporters about the legitimacy of the electoral process, Mayor William Lantigua called for a recount of his unofficial 57-vote loss to Daniel Rivera.
Lantigua made his announcement yesterday during a 20-minute speech on Spanish-language station WLLH AM 1400. He spoke from a radio studio at 70 Common St.
Lantigua lost by 60 votes according to an election night tally but gained a net three votes after some absentee and provisional ballots were counted Friday. More than 15,200 ballots have now been counted, with some ballots still outstanding.
“From this moment on, I’m requesting an official and general recount of all the votes cast,” Lantigua said. “If, after each and every one of the votes and the doubts voters have are cleared, and if the results are not favorable to our candidacy, we will be the first ones to accept the results and offer our collaboration for the welfare of our community.”
The mayor made reference to voting machine problems in South Lawrence — Rivera’s stronghold -- that forced some ballots to be counted by hand.
”The democratic process of the United States, the same which has allowed me to speak to you today as your mayor, says that the legitimacy of an election does not end until the last doubt of the voters and every vote has been counted,” he said.
Rivera said he did not listen to Lantigua’s radio address.
”It was irrelevant,” said Rivera. “He’s just putting off the inevitable; 57 votes is impossible to overcome.
”First of all, Willy wants to win. He doesn’t care about the community even though it will cost money, time and further division in our community.”
He has called on the mayor to concede.
Rivera, who has already named two co-chairs of his transition team, said he and his team are not worried about the recount.
”He is in for a fight. We fought for every vote and will protect every one of them,” he said. “He’s the only one who thinks i didn’t win. The reaction from the street has been positive. He doesn’t want to admit he lost.”
Lantigua said, “The calls from thousands of people who were disillusioned with the process led me to ask for a recount. I’ve remained silent until now waiting for a final decision from the authorities.
”Such decision has not come, and I want you to know that I will defend our constitutional rights until the last resort to assure that every vote you cast will be counted justly,” Lantigua said.
The mayor told his radio audience he needed their support and urged listeners to stop by his Essex Street campaign headquarters to sign recount petitions.
He ended by quoting civil rights leader the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “The time is always right to do the right thing.”
Minutes after his radio appearance, people began to trickle into his headquarters, around the corner from City Hall.
Luz Maria De la Rosa was among the first to stop in.
”I heard your message on the radio and I came to help,” she told Lantigua. After filling out a form with her voter registration information, De la Rosa began helping others.
”I’m not happy with the results and as voters we want to make sure who the winner is so we can be confident about the process,” she said.
One hour later, Lantigua’s headquarter was full of people who came to offer their support with a handshake and hugs as well as their signatures.
Juan and Alba Diaz stopped in along with their son, Jean Carlos, 19. They also have a daughter, Alba, 18.
“He has proven himself by the projects he has done and we want a leader who can make our city better as we raise our children here,” Alba Diaz said.