By: Tom Duggan – July, 2011
During the late 80’s, former Lawrence Mayor Kevin Sullivan tried to orchestrate a recall election against two members of the Lawrence School Committee who opposed his Emerson College relocation plan. That effort, backed with money, resources and the help of the daily newspaper, failed.
In the early 90’s, former Lawrence Mayor Larry Lefebre lost a very close election to Mary Claire Kennedy and immediately set out to undo the election with a recall of Kennedy. He had a well oiled political machine at his disposal, the ability to raise a lot of money and a slew of volunteers to get the job done.
That effort also failed.
Now, an effort to recall Lawrence Mayor Willie Lantigua is underway and the Vegas odds are not very promising.
It’s sort of a David vs. Goliath battle, where you have a rag tag team of dedicated recall supporters going against the Mayor Willie Lantigua, the greatest political mind (and network) Lawrence has seen since the day’s of Mayor John J. Buckley back in the 70’s. In order for a recall effort to be successful, Lantigua’s opponents (who call themselves “It’s Your Right”), must get signatures from 5,400 registered Lawrence voters within 30 days.
The official recall petitions themselves must be in perfect order. Each page must have the exact information required and must be filled out properly with no mistakes. If enough signatures are certified by Lantigua’s Board of Registrars (appointed by the mayor), the City Council will call for a special election and open nominations for candidates to replace Lantigua, leading to a two question ballot.
Question One: Should Lawrence Mayor Willie Lantigua be recalled?
Question Two: If you voted yes on question one, who of the following candidates should replace Mayor Lantigua for the remainder of his term?
A list of candidates who have obtained nomination signatures to appear on the ballot will be listed. The candidate who gets the most votes on recall day will succeed Lantigua as Mayor immediately.
There is no runoff election. If there are a dozen candidates on the ballot, and question one succeeds, the next mayor could walk into office with only a few hundred votes.
Lantigua’s name cannot appear as a candidate on question 2.
Lawrence residents Wayne Hayes and Reverend Edwin Rodriguez have been spearheading the effort to remove Lantigua from office. An effort that has already had it’s share of setbacks. Twice the group tried to submit 100 affidavits from registered voters in the city to get the official recall petitions released by the city clerk.
The first time, City Clerk Billy Maloney said there were mistakes on the forms and refused to accept them. The second time, Mayor Lantigua secretly closed city hall in the middle of the day, and recall organizers were left to wait through the 4th of July weekend to try and submit them again.
Finally, the following Tuesday, an affidavit and 153 certified signatures from Lawrence voters were accepted by the city clerk and the recall was finally underway.
But even if the recall organizers are successful in getting the 5,400 signatures required to call for the special election, Lantigua is a master electioneer. Not only does he have complete control of the city council, the school committee and the election department, Lantigua will be out campaigning hard ball as he always does.
He will be using the only weapon in his arsenal: crying racism. He will be working the neighborhoods, door to door. He will be calling on his friends in the non-profit world to organize and throw roadblocks in the way of recall organizers. He will be calling in favors and using every ounce of power at his disposal to stop the recall from getting on the ballot, and failing that, to stop it from succeeding on election day.
But, it’s not an impossible task. Public opinion against Lantigua has been growing rapidly over the last several months, even among Dominican voters, his strongest base of support.
Add to that a federal grand jury investigation looking into corruption by Lantigua, the Boston press reporting weekly about Lantigua’s law breaking and outrageous behavior and a long trail of phony claims about the city’s finances and this David vs. Goliath battle starts to even out.
Whatever happens over the next 30 days, the recall effort against Willie Lantigua will be the most closely watched, and most heavily scrutinized election in decades.
Anyone interested in supporting the recall effort can do so by using the following contact information.
Rev. Edwin Rodriguez 978-305-2215
Wayne Hayes 978-305-4130
Victor Hernandez 978-398-1050
Javier Negron 978-305-2394
Johnny Castillo 978-204-6368
Email Wayne Hayes: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rev Rodriguez at email@example.com