Mayor William Lantigua of Lawrence accepted defeat Monday in the deeply divided city’s mayoral race, two days after losing a recount to rival Daniel Rivera by 81 votes.
Lantigua, the state’s first Latino mayor, said he will clear the way for a smooth transition in the mostly Latino city of 77,000. He said he called Rivera to congratulate him and urged his supporters to back the mayor-elect.
“It’s time for us to heal the wounds,” Lantigua said in Spanish on the El Tapon show on La Mega, WLLH 1400 AM radio. “It’s time to give support to Mr. Rivera so that he can continue the good municipal government work that we have proudly carried out in Lawrence.”
Lantigua’s concession ended a divisive and protracted election season in the city, which has the highest unemployment rate in Massachusetts, and brought to an end his tumultuous four-year term. His administration came under state and federal investigation, and several top allies have been indicted on public corruption charges.
Lantigua himself has not been accused of wrongdoing. On Monday, he said he had suffered an intense campaign to discredit him during his term, yet left the city better than he found it, with a balanced budget, bilingual workers at City Hall, and paved and clean streets.
Lantigua, 58, said he put Rivera on notice that Lantigua and his supporters would monitor the new administration’s treatment of residents, many of whom are immigrants from the Dominican Republic, like Lantigua.
“We won’t allow them to erase the victories that we have achieved in this administration,” he said. “We’re not going to let the neighborhoods of our poor people fill with garbage once again or tolerate that our citizens are mistreated, like what happened before.”
Rivera, a 42-year-old Army veteran and city councilor, had urged Lantigua to accept defeat the night of the Nov. 5 election and was the first to call for the city to heal. But Lantigua sought a recount, which on Saturday widened Rivera’s winning margin from 58 votes to 81.
On Monday, Rivera said he welcomed Lantigua’s sentiments.
“I’m glad he called, and I’m glad that we can come together as a community,” Rivera, the son of a Dominican immigrant mother, said in a telephone interview. “We’re not going to let the river or ethnicity or old grudges divide us any longer.”
On La Mega radio Monday, Lantigua said he remained troubled by several “irregularities” in the elections process, including more than 100 so-called spoiled ballots that might have favored him. But he said he ultimately decided that filing a lawsuit wasn’t in the city’s best interests.
It is unclear what Lantigua will do after he hands over City Hall in January, but the mayor made clear he is not going away. He urged supporters to keep him in their prayers.
“I am not going to disappear,” Lantigua said in Spanish, to applause and cheers at the radio show. “I will continue working for the welfare of our people, of our city, the great city of Lawrence.”
In a statement Monday, the Dominican American National Roundtable, a Washington, D.C., organization, praised Lantigua’s concession as “the right thing to do.”
“It is customary in USA and the civilized world that the defeated graciously acknowledges and publicly congratulates the winner via telephone or a concession speech,” said chairman Nestor Montilla, who traveled to Lawrence to observe the recount Saturday. “It is official. Dan won by 81 votes after the official ballot recount, becoming the youngest Dominican-American mayor ever in the history of the United States and territories.”