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Ahead Of Lawrence Recount, Rivera Prepares For Transition05:04
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In Lawrence on Saturday, there is to be a recount of the mayor's race.

Challenger Daniel Rivera leads the incumbent mayor, William Lantigua, by 58 votes. Rivera is confident that the recount will confirm his victory.

While some Lawrentians are looking for a change, others are rallying behind Lantigua.

The Pulse At El Pilon

El Pilon is a grocery store that serves food in the back. It's in a neighborhood that used to be called The Plain and that went overwhelmingly for Lantigua. But the owner, Jose Frias, says he's behind Rivera.

Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua, left, and Daniel Rivera, who is up by 58 votes (AP File/Facebook)
Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua, left, and Daniel Rivera, who is up by 58 votes (AP File/Facebook)

"Because he's a very intelligent person," Frias says, "and I hope that he helps the city, and continues with the city's progress."

There is disagreement as to how much progress the city has made under Mayor Lantigua. His administration has been the subject of several state and federal investigations. Some of his top aides have been indicted amid allegations of corruption.

City Councilor Marc Laplante, a longtime Lantigua critic, says Lawrence residents are fatigued.

"A lot of people are just tired of seeing the constant negativity that surrounded his actions," Laplante says. "It seemed that there was a constant circus atmosphere, and I think he became a polarizing figure. So I think people were looking for someone who could really start building and unifying the city."

This election is between two generations of Latinos. The 58-year-old Lantigua served as the city's state representative starting in 2003. He was elected its first Latino mayor in 2009.

The 42-year-old Rivera looks like he's in his 20s. He is in his second term on the city council. He also served as Latino coordinator for the U.S. Senate campaign of Elizabeth Warren.

"Time for a change," says Carlos Garcia, a customer at El Pilon. "If you had your chance and you didn't do what you were supposed to, let somebody else do it."

But on Essex Street, near City Hall, Naomi Nunes says Lantigua has done a lot of things for the city.

"He cleans the street, the bridge," Nunes says.

And Pano Santa Ana says Lantigua is the only mayor who has done anything for Lawrence.

"The streets, he's repaved them," Santa Ana says. "The park, many things that no other mayor has done."

Councilor Laplante retorts:

He was able to sell to the people of the city a great job that he has done with respect to paving the streets. And if you were to ask most Lantigua supporters why they would be supporting him, they would immediately point to the streets and say, "Here's an individual that cared so much for our city that he paved our streets."

And the road money comes from the state, primarily, and that's money previous mayors have spent as well for road work.

For breakfast, Rivera goes to El Pilon, in the neighborhood that is so strongly for Lantigua. He drinks avena, a liquid Cream of Wheat.

"My mom used to make this when I was a kid," Rivera says. His mother is Dominican. His father is Puerto Rican. For something more solid for breakfast, Rivera also orders tripleta.

"Fried Dominican cheese, mofongo with a little bit of Dominican salami, and a fried egg," Rivera says. "Yeah. So it's good. It's really good. I don't eat it every day, because it's kind of a heavy meal, but when I can, I do."

Rivera, a big guy, recognizes he's a long way from the combat shape he was in during the Gulf War. He was a U.S. Army military police officer then.

As Rivera looks ahead to Saturday, he's confident that the recount will confirm his election, but he recognizes how close it is.

"We know it's 58 votes," Rivera says. "We know we're a divided community, and we're going to try to bring people together right away. The people that own this bodega were supporters of the mayor. But you saw they're very welcoming, and they're prepared to go on and become a community again. And we think that once Saturday happens, we'll be just fine."

I wanted to include Lantigua in this story. I went to his campaign office, and was told he was not there. Same thing at City Hall, where I requested an interview. He did not call back.

Rivera is not waiting for the recount. He's moving ahead with the transition. His first order of business if he's confirmed as mayor-elect is hiring more police officers.

"But part of the problem is that we don't have a huge tax base, so how do you pay for that?" Rivera asks. "We just have to prioritize, and if it means that the parks and the parks in the stadiums have to be cut by volunteers as opposed to people who are on the payroll, so be it, but we have to get more police officers on the street."

Rivera says he will also fire people who are not qualified to do their jobs but were hired for their political connections.

This program aired on November 21, 2013.

Fred Thys Twitter Reporter
Fred Thys reports on politics and higher education for WBUR.

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