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5 cities feature lively campaigns for mayor

While the hotly contested contest in Boston is claiming much of the spotlight, spirited mayoral fights in Amesbury, Everett, Lawrence, Lynn, and Newburyport also have candidates in a scramble to woo voters as they near Election Day.

In all, 21 area municipalities are holding elections Tuesday to select mayors, city councilors, school committee members, and other officials. Ballot questions are also on tap in five communities, several of them closely watched.

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In Revere, voters will decide whether to support the proposed casino at Suffolk Downs. Winthrop voters will act on a debt exclusion, or temporary tax increase, for the town’s share of $80.2 million for a new, combined middle school and high school, with the state set to fund nearly 60 percent of eligible costs.

The race in Amesbury took on sudden life when first-time candidate Ken Gray was the surprise first-place finisher in a four-way preliminary in September, with four-term incumbent Thatcher W. Kezer III finishing second. Despite the result, Kezer believes his chances of being reelected are good.

“There’s a big difference in the final election with the number of people turning out and who turns out. . . . Right now, I feel momentum in the right direction. The folks that have been with me all along are motivated, and things are going well in Amesbury,” he said.

Gray, the chief executive of a Haverhill-based semiconductor equipment firm, said he is “very optimistic but guarded. We are approaching it as if it’s close, and I think it is close.”

He said he would bring a “private sector perspective” to city government. “It’s something I think is sorely needed in municipal government everywhere, the notion today that we need to do more with less,” he said.

In Everett, three-term Mayor Carlo DeMaria and Alderman Robert Van Campen are dueling in a race that comes amid Everett’s bid to land a casino.

DeMaria took first place by a comfortable margin in the preliminary, but Van Campen is upbeat. “It’s going great,” he said. “We are working in overdrive right now. We have had a great response at the door. . . . My message ‘For a Better Everett’ seems be well received. People genuinely want to see an end to politics as usual at City Hall.”

DeMaria, in a statement, said: “It has been a long election season, and my campaign has worked tirelessly, canvassing daily to bring our message to the residents. Over the past six years, we have diligently worked to bring progress and value to Everett. Together, we have accomplished a lot, and I know that the future of Everett is bright.”

In Lawrence, incumbent William Lantigua seeks to turn back a challenge from City Councilor at Large Dan Rivera. The race has drawn special interest because of controversies that have marked Lantigua’s first term as mayor.

Although he finished a distant second to Lantigua in a six-way preliminary, Rivera sees a close final race. “Every vote is going to count,” he said. “If folks think about the last four years and reflect on the negativity, they should come out and vote and make a difference. If they do that, we should be OK.”

“I’m happy with the support I received on primary day. However I am not taking anything for granted,” Lantigua said in a statement. “ In my mind, I am always down by one vote.’’

“My administration has worked hard for the past four years. We have a fiscal house in order; four balanced budgets, improved bond ratings, free cash,” he added, also pointing to a drop in the crime rate, new and cleaner streets and parks, and “unprecedented private sector investment.”

Judith Flanagan Kennedy, Lynn’s first-term mayor, faces a challenge from City Council president Timothy Phelan. Kennedy outpaced Phelan by a wide margin in a two-way preliminary; the city holds preliminary balloting even when it is not needed to pare the field.

“I’m clearly the underdog, so it’s made me work harder,” Phelan said. “It’s tough running against an incumbent. I’ve tried to get my message out there.” He said that has included talking about his economic plan, his proposal for a year-round citywide preschool program, and an incentive plan to attract new businesses.

“I feel very good about what the campaign staff and I have been able to do to get my message out,” Kennedy said. She is emphasizing her record, which she said includes “everything from reverse 911 being implemented to having our first dog park, to reviving [General Electric’s] Factory to the Future site . . . to beefing up the police and fire ranks.”

In Newburyport, two-term Mayor Donna D. Holaday is facing City Councilor Richard E. Sullivan Jr., whom she narrowly outpolled in a three-way preliminary.

“I’m feeling confident,” Holaday said. “We have worked very hard and have been out every weekend in the neighborhoods dropping ward-specific information.”

She said voters “know my work ethic, they know what I’ve accomplished for the city. They know I’ve been there for them every day and that I’ll be there for them the next four years. We have $100 million in capital projects underway. It’s not time to change leadership.”

A retired Newburyport firefighter and former School Committee member, Sullivan is a son of the late mayor Richard E. Sullivan and brother of Christopher Sullivan, a former city councilor and interim mayor.

“I’m feeling fairly optimistic. I think people are looking for a new mayor,” said Sullivan, who believes the key concern of voters is to end “the argument over the waterfront. Most people want to keep it open. There are many other issues like general public services, better schools, but they are all being clouded by this one issue. We need to keep the waterfront open and move on.”

Saugus has three ballot questions. One would provide staggered terms for selectmen and School Committee members and shift the timing of city elections to every year. The other two are nonbinding measures on the transfer of land to the Cemetery Commission, and to have Saugus Cable Television’s operation revert to a community group.

In an advisory ballot question on Tuesday, Gloucester is asking voters to select among three options for use of the Fuller school site. And Salem has a nonbinding question asking if the two underground cables that National Grid seeks to install in the city should be mostly located in a tunnel under the harbor.

Also next week, a Special Town Meeting in Winchester on Monday will consider authorizing the $129.9 million cost of a proposed overhaul of the high school.

If the measure passes, voters would take up a debt exclusion at a special election.

The state has agreed to fund nearly 43 percent of eligible costs.

John Laidler can be reached at laidler@globe.com.

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