LAWRENCE — Daniel Rivera, fresh from an apparent razor-thin victory in the mayoral race over incumbent William Lantigua, urged the mayor on Wednesday to accept defeat so that the city can prepare for a new leader.
But Lantigua has not conceded, nor has he asked for a recount, according to city attorney Charles Boddy. Lantigua has 10 days to request a recount, state officials said.
According to preliminary results released by the city, Rivera won by 60 votes.
Lantigua said Wednesday night that it was too early to call the election, and noted that about 50 votes were still being counted. He has hired a lawyer and said he will decide whether to request a recount once the vote is official, possibly this week.
“I’m just waiting for a final decision,” he said.
Rivera, a 42-year-old city councilor and Gulf War veteran, said he hoped the mayor would not make such a request and prolong the contentious election in this deeply divided city.
“I don’t think it’s in the city’s best interests for us to have a recount,” Rivera said in an interview shortly after his first news conference outside City Hall. “We are divided in so many ways. We want to just make sure that we start healing.”
Lantigua dismissed Rivera’s call.
“As far as I know, my city is healed,” Lantigua said.
Looking upbeat, and surrounded by supporters at his campaign headquarters, Lantigua spoke on a radio show, hugged supporters, and handed out his business cards, emblazoned with his photo, to children.
Secretary of State William F. Galvin, who said he supervised the city’s elections, said officials were examining provisional ballots to see if they could be counted. He said such ballots are filed by people who are not on the voter list but said they were eligible to vote. All ballots cast Tuesday are under police guard.
Galvin said it would be reasonable for Lantigua to request a recount, given the small difference in a roughly 15,000-vote race.
“He’s perfectly within his rights,” Galvin said.
To request a recount, Galvin said, the mayor would have to meet the deadline and collect 10 voter signatures from each ward. However, Galvin said, the city’s Board of Registrars, which now has three members and one vacancy, would decide whether contested votes should be counted.
Rivera declared victory Tuesday night and led a jubilant parade to City Hall, halting Lantigua’s bid for a second term. Lantigua was the top vote-getter in the September preliminary elections, with 48 percent of the vote, while Rivera was a distant second, with 23 percent.
But in the ensuing weeks, Rivera cobbled together a broad coalition of supporters, including three of his four former rivals in the mayoral race, plus endorsements from Senator Elizabeth Warren, Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, and Lawrence’s teachers.
On Wednesday, against the backdrop of City Hall, Rivera said he would serve the entire city of Lawrence. He gave interviews in English and Spanish and vowed to hire more police officers and work to create jobs. Lawrence has the state’s highest unemployment rate, 15 percent. He also said city workers should not fear for their jobs, if they are performing well.
Unlike Lantigua, Rivera said he would place anyone who has been indicted on unpaid leave.
“In the winter when we begin a brand new year, we will bring sunshine to City Hall,” he said.
Lantigua has been criticized for continuing to pay the salaries of allies who have been indicted on corruption charges. He terminated Officer Pedro J. Lopez’s salary after Lopez was found guilty last month in federal court of bribery, lying to federal investigators, and obstruction of justice. Lantigua said he moved to fire him once he was convicted.
But the city is still paying the $115,920 yearly salary of Melix Bonilla, Lantigua’s former campaign manager and a deputy police chief, who has been indicted on state corruption charges. Bonilla is on paid leave from his job.
Justo Garcia, a Lantigua supporter indicted on charges of campaigning on city time and stealing money from the municipal garage where he worked, still works for the city, earning $39,500 a year, said Frank Bonet, the personnel director. Garcia has been transferred to the parking division.
Leonard Degnan, Lantigua’s former chief of staff, has also been indicted on corruption charges, but he is no longer with the city.
Lantigua has denied any wrongdoing and has faced no charges despite state and federal investigations into his administration. The indictments are among a spate of controversies that shadowed the Lantigua administration from start to finish. The state is also suing him for alleged campaign finance violations.
Lantigua has won praise for fixing city streets and balancing the budget. His supporters say he is the victim of a witch hunt and racism.
The city of 76,000 is 74 percent Latino, and more than a third of the population are immigrants, largely from the Dominican Republic, like Lantigua.
But Marc Laplante, a city councilor and registered Republican, said Rivera had the potential to unite the city.
“Lantigua used the whole race card as a red herring,” said Laplante, who is white. “Rivera embraced race and ethnicity and tried to expand that to bring everyone together.”
But Lantigua supporters said Rivera was getting ahead of himself in declaring victory. All the votes should be counted — and recounted, if necessary, they said.
“What are they afraid of?” said Brian Depena, a Lantigua supporter who owns Tenares Tire in Lawrence. “What is there to hide?”Maria Sacchetti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.