By Mark E. Vogler
---- — LAWRENCE — State Rep. Marcos A. Devers said he loves his job, representing the city’s interests on Beacon Hill.
But Devers, 62, who was easily elected to a second full term at the State House last fall, said he’s ready to give up his legislative seat next January, “effective the same day I’m sworn in as mayor.”
Devers, who made history in 2001 by becoming the city’s first Latino mayor when the City Council elected him to serve the final three months of the year as interim mayor, made it official last night that he plans to run against incumbent Mayor William Lantigua, who became the city’s first elected Latino mayor four years ago.
“I’m running because of the people — a lot of them have been asking me to run,” Devers said in interview prior to a campaign kickoff in the third floor function room of Rio’s Bar & Grill at 9 Appleton St.
In becoming the fifth candidate to declare himself in the city’s mayoral race, Devers pits himself in another political showdown against Lantigua, who previously sat in the same State House seat now occupied by Devers.
Lantigua defeated Devers in his reelection to the 16th Essex House seat in 2006 and 2008. Devers lost again to Lantigua in the 2009 mayoral race, finishing third in the preliminary election. Though Devers and Lantigua are fierce political rivals, Lantigua did support Devers’ campaign in the 2010 special election to fill his House seat after he resigned.
But Devers said he’s willing to “sacrifice” that State House seat to battle Lantigua again. But he doesn’t have to step down from the seat unless he beats the mayor. He’s in the first year of a two-year term.
“I’m going to run a positive campaign, not a negative one,” Devers vowed last night, downplaying the contentious nature of another political race against Lantigua.
“Improving the city’s image is the most important thing. We have got to show a good image to the rest of the state. The Merrimack Valley has to be proud of Lawrence. That’s our main goal. Everybody has got to work together, and the government’s got to be transparent if we are to make improvements,” Devers said.
“We need to make everybody feel good about Lawrence. I think that Lawrence has started a new era. It’s no more ‘us against them.’ We’re all for Lawrence. We’re all for improving the quality of life for everyone. I’m going to be a mayor for everyone,” he said.
Devers immigrated to Puerto Rico from the Dominican Republic in 1982 and moved to Lawrence five years later. He taught science at Lawrence High School and math at Greater Lawrence Technical School for 16 years, and now works as an engineer for a company he owns.
Devers’ wife Victoria is a school teacher. They have four children.
His political career is marked by resilience. It took him five attempts before he finally got elected to the City Council in 1999. Council members voted him to serve as interim mayor for three months in 2001, after former Mayor Patricia Dowling resigned to become a judge.
His brief career as the state’s first Latino mayor — Lantigua was the first to be elected — ended in November 2001, when he returned to the City Council after Michael Sullivan was elected mayor. He served as council president from 2002 to 2004 and left the council to run against Sullivan in 2005, but lost. This will be Devers’ third bid for mayor
Also in the race are City Council President Daniel Rivera, accountant Nestor DeJesus and inventor James O’Donoghue.
Last night’s rally was organized by a group of local business and media leaders, including several who supported Lantigua in his first race in 2009 but said they have been disillusioned by his leadership. They include Rafael Guzman, owner of RM Technologies, a construction firm; Spanish radio personality Randy Reyes and Beatriz Perez, who writes for El Mundo, a Spanish newspaper based in Boston that circulates in the Merrimack Valley.