LAWRENCE, Mass. — Ballots from the Lawrence mayoral election were locked in a City Hall vault under round-the-clock police guard Wednesday in anticipation of a likely recount in the nonpartisan race, with challenger Daniel Rivera claiming a narrow victory over incumbent William Lantigua.
Unofficial returns from Tuesday’s election showed Rivera with 60 more votes than Lantigua out of more than 15,000 cast in the Merrimack Valley city.
Rivera said Wednesday that he wants any recount of the city’s close mayoral election to be done by the state. He called for Lantigua to concede and help him set up a transition team so the city can move forward. Rivera also said that he hopes Lantigua will not ask for a recount.
“If he thinks it’s in his best interest, I don’t think that it is in the city’s best interest to do it, but we will defend our vote,” Rivera said. “We’re hoping that the secretary of state’s office takes our request and runs it. Again, they need fresh eyes in there. These guys have been going all night.”
Secretary of State William Galvin, the state’s top elections official, said his office worked with Lawrence officials after the election to secure the ballots, which were placed in sealed containers and locked in the vault at the Lawrence elections department.
“Campaign representatives recorded each seal number and were permitted to take pictures of the containers holding the ballots and other precinct election materials,” Galvin’s office said in a statement Wednesday. “Thereafter, the vault was sealed in the presence of all parties.”
The 58-year-old incumbent, the state’s first popularly elected Latino mayor, has faced several high-profile political troubles during his four-year term. He was recently named in a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Martha Coakley that alleged he violated campaign finance laws.
Two associates of the mayor, including his former chief of staff, pleaded not guilty in June to corruption charges. Lantigua himself has not been charged with any crimes and a recall effort mounted by opponents two years ago failed to collect enough certified signatures to move forward.
Lantigua has yet to comment publicly on the vote or say whether he intends to seek a recount.
Under Massachusetts law, Lantigua has 10 days to ask for a recount.
Lawrence police officers will remain stationed outside the entrance to the vault until any recount is completed, the statement said.
Rivera was endorsed by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas and the local teachers union.
State Rep. Marcos Devers, who also ran for mayor and endorsed Rivera after finishing out of the running in the September preliminary election, said he expected Lantigua to request a recount but did not think it would succeed.
He said Wednesday that voters accomplished a “great change” in ousting the incumbent.
“We want the rest of the state to see Lawrence as a great place,” Devers said.
With reporting by The Associated Press and the WBUR Newsroom