EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 6, 2013

Editorial: Rivera's electoral fight must continue

The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Congratulations to Lawrence Mayor-elect Daniel Rivera, who ran a respectful and thoughtful campaign that reached out to all Lawrence residents.

Doing so allowed Rivera, who finished a distant second in the September preliminary election, to hand Mayor William Lantigua the defeat he so richly deserved.

“This city has been in a perpetual state of pause,” Rivera said at a rally yesterday, citing the controversies and scandals that have marred Lantigua’s first term. “That ends today.”

This is the kind of refreshing change of attitude Lawrence so clearly needs.

Lantigua won the preliminary but failed to garner more than 50 percent of the vote against a field of five challengers. Rivera was aided in his victory by three of his fellow challengers — state Rep. Marcos Devers, firefighter Juan “Manny” Gonzalez and inventor James O’Donoghue — who campaigned for him.

Lantigua’s loss demonstrated that striving to be mayor of just one segment of Lawrence’s population — his Latino, largely Dominican base — is not a formula for success. Rivera, himself of Dominican and Puerto Rican heritage, reached out to all the city’s residents, Latino and Anglo alike.

Lantigua, by contrast, seemed eager to exclude a large segment of the city’s population. He addressed his campaign rallies in Spanish and refused to speak to English-language print and television media — even to the point of ejecting them from his campaign headquarters on election night.

Lantigua refused to engage Rivera in a campaign at all, declining all requests to debate.

Still, Lantigua’s popularity was enough to keep Rivera’s margin of victory razor-thin — just 60 votes out of more than 15,000 ballots cast. Rivera’s task now is clear. Having worked hard to get out his vote, he must now protect it in any recount.

Elections in Lawrence have long been subject to allegations of fraud or other electoral improprieties. Rivera demanded a close watch on balloting on Election Day. The office of Secretary of State William Galvin sent an unknown number of observers to monitor the election and the independent, nonprofit watchdog Common Cause sent 30 observers. Rivera himself had a team of lawyers at the ready to challenge any electoral shenanigans.

By all accounts, the election itself went relatively smoothly. Now, the same scrutiny must be applied to any recount.

A primary concern is this: The impartiality of the city’s Board of Registrars is questionable. The board, normally five members strong, has two vacancies. One of the three members serving is Ana Medina, who is an active Lantigua supporter. Medina, appointed to the board by Lantigua in 2001, donated $400 to the mayor’s campaign this year. Her home and car display Lantigua campaign signs and stickers. One Lantigua poster at her home is 32 square feet — five times the maximum size allowed by city zoning ordinances.

Medina also heads Casa Dominicana, a social service agency that has received $28,000 in funding from the Lantigua administration over the last three years, reporter Keith Eddings found. The money appears to be the agency’s only source of funding.

Lantigua last night said he has not yet conceded the race. A decision on any recount could come later.

Rivera must insist that any recount process be monitored to ensure that it is fair and free of any improprieties. Rivera’s fight to be the next mayor of Lawrence is not over. The real battle may have just begun.