METHUEN — City Council candidate Robert LeBlanc has come under fire from some rivals for branding Lawrence as "the drug capital of New England."
LeBlanc, 68, of 2 Plumwood Drive, who has come under fire this campaign over claims he was banned from Greater Lawrence Technical School for stalking a male high school student, also called on Methuen residents to take a stand against crime and the "cancer" that threatens Methuen's quality of life.
LeBlanc is running for one of three councilor-at-large seats in the Nov. 5 municipal election, along with incumbent Joyce Campagnone and fellow challengers Sharon Birchall, Daniel Grayton and James Jajuga. At-large councilors represent the entire city.
LeBlanc made the remarks about Lawrence during a debate last Thursday at the Merrimack Valley Golf Club. All but Birchall participated.
The candidates were asked what issue they were hearing about most from city residents, aside from taxes and jobs. LeBlanc made his comments about Lawrence after the three other participating candidates brought up public safety.
"I'm not going to dance around what we're talking about here, folks," said LeBlanc. "The real crisis that we're facing, where we have to push back, it rises out of the very simple fact that we border the city of Lawrence — the drug capital of New England."
LeBlanc said most Lawrence residents are "good, hardworking people."
"But there are enough malcontents in the city of Lawrence that pollute and create a cancer atmosphere, threatening the quality of life here in Methuen," said LeBlanc. "And we need to take a stand, and we need to say, 'No more.'"
Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua could not be reached for comment for this story. Two candidates for councilor-at-large, Campagnone and Birchall, criticized LeBlanc yesterday for his remarks at the debate.
"It's our neighboring town, so naturally, we don't want the crime to roll over into Methuen," said Campagnone. "Who are we to throw stones? I don't think he should have said that. You don't want to start pitting community versus community."