It’s an election year in Lawrence. So it must be time for another William Lantigua comeback attempt.
The controversial former mayor — months removed from losing a bid to recapture City Hall — is again running, this time for the state representative seat he held for three-plus terms and ran for, unsuccessfully, just four years ago.
Lantigua, 63, announced in a Facebook post this week that he was hosting a campaign kickoff event Thursday night in Lawrence, the city he led through a single tumultuous term as mayor from 2010 to 2014. He said he views the open seat as a “great opportunity to get back to the State House,” where, if elected, he said he’d put a focus on the opioid epidemic.
“Lawrence has become the place [with the reputation] to not only buy and sell but to use,” he said in a phone call. “I’m sure you heard Donald Trump trashing Lawrence. Before that, it was the governor of New Hampshire. ... I think there’s a lot more to be done.”
Since 2014, he’s made one attempt after another to reclaim elected office. After losing to Daniel Rivera in the 2013 mayoral race, Lantigua ran the next year against then-representative Marcos Devers to recapture the State House seat he held for seven years before stepping down, under pressure, in 2010 after winning his mayoral race.
Devers, who has a long history of political clashes with Lantigua, held him off by more than 400 votes, after which Lantigua moved back to his native Dominican Republic. He returned last year to again challenge Rivera for mayor, and again lost, that time by more than 300 votes.
But another opportunity opened at the State House when Representative Juana Matias — who unseated Devers in 2016 — opted against reelection to launch a bid for Congresswoman Niki Tsongas’ open seat.
Enter Lantigua — and in the small world of Lawrence politics, Devers, too. The Democrat, who held the seat from 2010 until last year, is hosting his own campaign kickoff this weekend in the Merrimack Valley city in the hope of taking back the seat.
“He spent like six months [in the Dominican Republic] and he’s back again to run against me,” Devers said Thursday. “We hope this time he retires for good.”
Lantigua said he chose to run because he “heard from people, that’s what they want me to do.” He still has family in the Dominican Republican, including his fiancé and daughter, but denied he’s repeatedly “retired” there only to return to Lawrence in recent years to seek out political opportunities.
“I live here,” he said of Lawrence. “I don’t have the resources to go back and forth. There are many other people who summer or winter, they go away for a few weeks. But for me, they call it a retirement. That’s not the case. It’s not time for me to retire.”
Beyond political races, Lantigua’s career has been largely marked by controversy.
Three members of his administration and campaign team were indicted for bribery and stealing city resources, but only one of them was convicted. Lantigua himself was never indicted.Matt Stout can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mattpstout.