LAWRENCE — For possibly the first time ever, there will be no citywide preliminary election this fall because with the exception of one district, there aren't enough candidates running for office.
City Clerk Bill Maloney told the City Council on Tuesday night that based on state law, he can't even print a citywide ballot for the Sept. 24 preliminary. Only District C, which has three candidates, will have an earlier election because it's needed to winnow the field from three candidates to two for the final election Nov. 5.
Maloney explained to the council that as soon as he realized how many candidates there were, he consulted with the city attorney and state law, which guided him to this decision.
"This is the first time in my 14-year tenure as city clerk that I'm invoking state law to cancel the preliminary elections, except for Ward C," he said. "There aren't a sufficient number of candidates to justify a preliminary election."
The news came as somewhat of a shock to the councilors, all of whom are running for re-election except for At-Large Councilor Brian DePena. He announced Friday that he's not running for City Council so he can begin to mount his campaign for mayor in 2020 after Mayor Dan Rivera's second term expires.
"This is new," remarked At-Large Councilor Ana Levy.
Good and bad
The fact that there won't be a citywide preliminary has pluses and minuses, Maloney said.
On the plus side, it will save the city $70,000. He said that typical, citywide preliminary elections would cost about $90,000. But having an election in just one ward, or district, with four precincts, will cost about $20,000, he said.
On the negative side, he said, "I'd rather have elections. It's part of a healthy democracy, and gets the names of candidates out there."
Maloney also said he was looking forward to putting the city's new election machines to use, but they would only be used in one ward.
At-large Councilor Pavel Payano said he hoped that people don't think there's no election at all.
"If folks don't vote in September, there's a potential drop in turnout in November," he said. "I hope you can use some of the funds you have saved to let people know when the final election is."
Councilors also asked whether candidates could mount a sticker campaign in the preliminary election.
Maloney said sticker candidates will not be allowed in the preliminary because there won't be a ballot for any district other than District C. He said people could mount a sticker or write-in campaign in the final election come November.
State law required the decision because, in the at-large race, as well as all the district races except for District C, as well as the School Committee and Greater Lawrence Technical School Committee races, there aren't enough candidates to trigger a preliminary election.
City Council races
The six candidates running for the three at-large seats on the City Council are: Richard Russell of 34 Cross St., incumbent Ana Levy of 167 Prospect St., Celina Reyes of 76 Coolidge St., Wander Morel of 79 Manchester St., incumbent Pavel Payano of 596 Haverhill St. and Jacqueline Marmol of 2 Museum Square.
Those who pulled papers for an at-large seat but did not return the required number of 100 signatures or didn't turn in any papers at all include: incumbent Brian DePena of 5 Oakland Road, Sandy Almonte of 83 Woodland St., Frederick Diaz of 19 Bailey St. and Steven Gil of 8 Boyd St. Two other candidates withdrew: Roberto Fernandez of 15 Florence Ave. and Francisco Brea of 85 Colonial Road.
There are two candidates in District A, including incumbent Maria Delacruz of 26 Summit Ave. and Frankie Caraballo of 139 Saratoga St. A third candidate, Kemal Bozkurt of 11 Woodland Court, only had 22 signatures certified out of 50 needed. Two people who did not return papers for District A include John Matatall of 2B Woodland St. and Raul Diaz of 70 E. Haverhill St., Apt. 3.
In District B, the race is between Alcibiades Acosta of 237 Jackson St. and incumbent Estela Reyes of 36 E. Haverhill St.
District C incumbent and City Council President Kendrys Vasquez will face two challengers in the preliminary, including Jorge Gonzalez of 31 Chelmsford St. and William Armand Green of 95 Columbus Ave.
In District D, incumbent Jeovanny Rodriguez of 32 Gale St. will face challenger Lee Fickenworth of 34 Cross St.
District E incumbent David Abdoo of 54 Stevens St. will face challenger Jose Madera Jr. of 138 Newton St.
Finally, in District F, incumbent Marc LaPlante of 29 Durso Ave., will face Gregory Delrosario of 41B Market St.
In District A, incumbent Donna Bertolino of 3 William St. is going up against Kassandra Infante of 3 Storrow Terrace. It is the only race for School Committee and will be on the final ballot in November.
There are no candidates for Districts B or C.
In District D, the only candidate to turn in papers was Joshua Alba of 51 Nesmith St. The other person who pulled papers but who didn't turn them in was Lorie Mendoza of 62 Nesmith St.
For District E, only one candidate — incumbent Patricia Mariano of 28 Ridgewood Circle — turned in papers. Two other candidates who pulled papers but didn't turn them in were Homayoun Maali of 53 Chester St. and Michelle Ljara of 10 Diamond St.
In District F, there doesn't appear to be a race, as the two candidates who pulled papers never turned them back in to the city clerk. They are: Juan Soriano Matias of 8A Salem St. and incumbent Stacy Reid Seward of 78 Gilbert St.
Finally, five people are running for three seats on the Greater Lawrence School Committee, including incumbents Leo Lamontagne of 10 Corbett Road and Stephany Infante of 236 Mt. Vernon St. They will face challengers Brenda Rozzi of 127 Chester St., Zoila Disla of 201 Olive Ave., and Vivian Marmol of 341 Water St. One candidate — incumbent Gary Mannion of 6 Mt. Auburn St. — did not turn in papers.
The GLTS Committee has seven members, including three elected from Lawrence and four from the other communities that send students to the school, including two from Methuen, and one each from Andover and North Andover.