Voters in Lawrence and Haverhill will decide some of the most watched contests in state Tuesday when they'll settle the rematch between Mayor Daniel Rivera and former mayor William Lantigua in Lawrence and choose between Shaun Toohey and Andy Vargas to succeed long-time state Rep. Brian Dempsey to represent Haverhill on Beacon Hill.
Elsewhere in the region, two uncontested races for mayor have generated little excitement. In Haverhill, James Fiorentini is running unopposed for an eighth two-year term. In Methuen, City Councilor James Jajuga is running unopposed to succeed Stephen Zanni as mayor.
Voters in Lawrence already have indicated their excitement about the Lantigua-Rivera grudge match. More than 30 percent of the city's registered voters cast ballots in the preliminary election in September — about twice the turnout in Boston, which also is electing a mayor in a more one-sided and low-key contest between incumbent Marty Walsh and City Councilor Tito Jackson.
And by Monday, 1,183 of Lawrence's 40,056 registered voters had cast absentee ballots in Tuesday's general election.
In Methuen, just 200 of the city's 33,803 voters cast absentee ballots, about half the 390 who voted in the last contested mayoral race in 2013.
“I really think the top of the ticket is what drives the turnout,” she said Methuen City Clerk Christine Touma-Conway.
Candidates in all three cities campaigned over the weekend. The campaigning was most frantic in Lawrence, where three of the state's most prominent Democrats – U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas, D-Lowell – attended rallies at Rivera's Essex Street campaign headquarters to renew their endorsements.
Standing on a crate of computer paper to lift her over the crowd, Warren described the “passion and enthusiasm for the city” Rivera showed as he described “the Lawrence I see in my dreams” during a tour of the city he gave her before he was elected mayor.
As Warren addressed Rivera loyalists inside his headquarters, a half-block away another cheering, sign-waving throng of Lantigua supporters packed all four corners at Essex and Lawrence streets. A video posted on Facebook shows a somewhat uncomfortable-looking Barbara L'Italien, the state senator from Andover now running for Congress, pushing through the crowd on her way to Rivera's headquarters.
“We wanted to give (Warren) and Barbara a warm greeting,” Lantigua said afterward. “You don't believe me?”
On Monday, Lantigua said he was “all over the place” campaigning.
“Going crazy,” he said. “Talking to people. Knocking on doors. Right now I'm on Myrtle Street. I'm down by one and I'm working hard.”
Rivera said he would be voting early Tuesday with his wife, Paula, accompanied by their two-year-old son, Danny, then giving voters rides to the polls and greeting voters outside polling locations.
Lawrence, Haverhill and Methuen also will elect city councilors and school committee members Tuesday.
In Lawrence, the ballot for City Council is all but filled up, with six candidates running for three at-large seats and contests in all but one of the six council districts. Only Marc Laplante in District F is running unopposed.
There is less interest in races for School Committee in Lawrence, which was stripped of its power when the state took over city schools in 2011, citing their chronic underachievement. Among the six districts, just one candidate is running in districts C and D and the ballot in District F is empty.
Three candidates are running for Lawrence's three seats on the committee that runs the Greater Lawrence Technical School.
In Methuen, five candidates are running for three open at-large seats. In the city's council districts, four candidates are running for two open seats in the East District, three are vying for two open seats in the Central District and two incumbents are running unopposed for re-election in the West District.
There are no contests for any of Methuen's six School Committee districts, where four incumbents and two newcomers – including Mayor Zanni's daughter, Jana Zanni Pesce – are running unopposed.
Methuen also will choose among three candidates running for the city's two seats on the Greater Lawrence Technical School committee, three candidates for two seats on the city Housing Authority and three candidates running for two seats on the Nevins Board of Trustees, which oversees the Nevins library.
In Haverhill, Vargas will appear on the ballot for both the Statehouse seat and for the City Council seat he now holds, which would allow him to return to the council if he loses the race for the Statehouse seat to Toohey. He would give up his council set if he wins both races.
Besides Vargas, there are 15 candidates running for the nine council seats in Haverhill, including all nine incumbents. All councilors serve at large.
Haverhill voters also will choose among five candidates, including two incumbents, running for three seats on the city's School Committee.
Staff writer Peter Francis contributed to this report.