Who Will End Up Mayor of Lawrence?

Opponent Daniel Rivera declared victory over incumbent William Lantigua. But the story didn't end Tuesday night.

You wouldn’t expect the administration of William Lantigua to end quietly. And in the aftermath of what initially appears to be his unseating, there has indeed been a lot of noise. What on earth is going on with our never dull friends to the north?

On Tuesday, the city’s voters decided between incumbent Lantigua and a two-term city councilor Daniel Rivera. With a margin of just 60 votes, Rivera declared victory last night, and reiterated it in a press conference Wednesday. Lantigua, meanwhile, remained out of sight for much of the evening, ejected all but the Spanish-language news media from his campaign headquarters, and is expected to request a recount.

The race was more closely watched than many mayoral contests because of the, well, rough ride Lantigua has had since being elected the state’s first Latino mayor in 2009 (much of it recounted in a February 2012 story in this magazine). Lantigua annoyed some early on by keeping his state representative position and collecting two paychecks even as Lawrence required a state bailout. Attorney General Martha Coakley sued him for campaign finance violations. And his cuts to the police department were blamed for a sharp rise in felony crimes in 2012.

And then there are the corruption charges against those around him. A one-time campaign was found guilty of bribery and obstruction of justice. A former campaign photographer was indicted for stealing money from the city garage and campaigning on city time. Campaign manager Melix Bonilla and former chief of staff Leonard Degnan have been indicted on state corruption charges, too. (They’ve all pleaded not guilty.)

All that talk of corruption is partly why the election was monitored by outside observers, and why news reports all emphasize that the ballots were being guarded by police through last night. Despite a few glitches, the Eagle Tribune reports that the election itself seeemed devoid of serious concerns:

As many as four voting machines broke down – including one that broke twice – a poll worker was removed for electioneering and piles of campaign literature were dropped off inside polling places, but spokesmen for the Secretary of State, Common Cause and city police reported few of the more serious irregularities that occurred in September’s preliminary election.

But with the identity of Lawrence’s next mayor still somewhat in limbo (there’s a press conference later today) there’s nothing to do but wait and see whether it’ll be another term for the remarkably popular Lantigua, or a new regime, elected very much in reaction to him.