By Keith Eddings
---- — LAWRENCE – The field of potential candidates for mayor thinned to as few as seven yesterday when a Pentecostal minister who led an effort to recall Mayor William Lantigua last year said he may drop out and a media specialist who was runner-up to Lantigua in 2009 said he won’t run again.
Rev. Edwin Rodriguez said has been considering quitting the race since city firefighter Juan “Manny” Gonzalez joined it because he fears the two would split the city’s Puerto Rican vote and divide the loyalties of those who supported the recall effort, which Gonzalez also helped to lead.
He said he has collected 700 signatures on nominating petitions to get on the ballot in the Sept. 17 preliminary elections, which will send the two front-runners on to the Nov. 5 general election. A total of 250 valid signatures are needed. The deadline for submitting petitions is Tuesday.
“I have to make up my mind whether to surrender or not or just to leave Mr. Gonzalez to have his way,” Rodriguez said yesterday in an interview from Passaic, N.J., where he was tending to the business of his church, El Faro Universal. “This doesn’t mean I am endorsing him.”
David Abdoo, a media affairs specialist for the federal Department of Health and Human Services in Boston who lost to Lantigua by 1,024 votes four years ago, said in an e-mail that he won’t run again, but did not elaborate about why. Six candidates already have submitted nominating petitions with enough valid signatures to get on the ballot in the preliminary election. Besides Lantigua and Gonzalez, they are City Council Vice President Daniel Rivera, state Rep. Marcos Devers, accountant Nestor De Jesus and inventor James Patrick O’Donaghue.
Their nominating petitions suggest that at least two might match Lantigua’s get-out-the-vote operation, which is rooted in the petition drives. Election officials approved 1,355 signatures on Rivera’s petitions, nearly three times the 459 that Lantigua collected. Devers also outdid the mayor, with 593 signatures.
In other races, 10 candidates have turned in enough valid signatures to make the ballot for the City Council’s three at-large seats. Four others have picked up petitions but have not turned them in.
The 10 approved for the preliminary ballot are incumbent Roger Twomey, former Council members Modesto Maldonado and Nilka Alvarez-Rodriguez, School Committeeman Francisco Surillo, Vocational Technical School Committeewoman Denise Perrault, former city Human Rights Commissioner Fancisco Brea, former City Councilor Jorge Gonzalez, businesswoman Wendy Luzon, lawyer Cara Martinoli and Maria de la Cruz. Councilor Rivera is giving up his seat to run for mayor; City Council President Frank Moran also is giving up his seat after holding it for a year while also serving as a state representative.
The races in the six council districts are generating less interest. Twelve candidates, including all incumbents, have picked up petitions but just six have turned them in.
In District A, Rosa Pina has been approved for the preliminary ballot for a seat now held by Sandy Almonte, who has not yet turned in her petitions.
In District B, incumbent Estela Reyes is so far unopposed, as is incumbent Kendrys Vasquez in District C.
In District D, Marta Rentas has been approved for the ballot for a seat now held by Oneida Aquino, the incumbent, who has not turned in petitions. Potential challengers Samuel Reyes and Javier Castillo also have picked up petitions but have not turned them in.
District E Councilor Eileen Bernal has been approved for the ballot. Kathleen Runge has picked up petitions but has not turned them in.
In District F, incumbent Marc Laplante has been approved for the ballot. Blossom Wilson has picked up petitions but has not turned them in.
The races for the committees that oversee city schools and the Greater Lawrence Technical School have generated even less interest. Just seven people have picked up nominating petitions for the city School Committee, which was stripped of its power last year when the state named a receiver to run the public schools. Four of the seven have been approved for the ballot. All three incumbents holding seats on the committee that oversees the Greater Lawrence Technical School have been approved for the ballot.