On September 26th, Lawrence voters will choose between 8 candidates running for mayor. Incumbent Mayor Dan Rivera is finishing up his first four-year term. The two candidates who get the highest number of votes on Sept. 26th will face each other in the November final election. The winner will be sworn in as mayor in January. There is a two-term limit.
This election will largely be a referendum on Rivera’s success and failures since being elected in 2013.
MAYOR DAN RIVERA
He came into office with a wave of goodwill and was seen by many as a savior who was going to turn around the city and undo the damage done by Willie Lantigua. In some respects, Rivera has made some amazing progress. He closed down the drug and prostitution infested “Tent City” under the Casey Bridge where homeless people have been squatting for several years. He may have been forced into it, – but he did it – and he deserves credit for it. He also deserves a tremendous amount of credit for the ingenious way he went about it.
After finding out that pretend do-gooders were bringing drugs and weapons down to tent city in boxes of food and clothing, Rivera set up a system where people can donate clothing and food, but must bring it to the mayor’s office first so that other contraband is not making its way under the bridge.
He also parked a staffed, police command vehicle under the bridge so that the homeless can sleep in safety without worrying about being assaulted.
As for public safety, Rivera has treated the cops terribly and violent crime has risen. For the last three years Rivera refused to ratify police union contracts and has had officers suspended for catching criminals during high speed chases.
But, the biggest disappointment in Rivera’s last three years is his refusal to turn over public documents – something he promised four years ago would never be a problem. “I’m not Willie Lantigua. If you ask for the documents we will give them to you.” Rivera never made good on that promise. His excuse was that he’s very busy, as if he thinks we are asking him to personally research the records. That’s unacceptable. It’s hard to believe that Mayor Lantigua was more transparent, but he was. Rivera fired two Lawrence police officers for corruption but never bothered to tell the public. That’s not acceptable either. The public has the right to know when bad cops are fired and the reasons. Rivera seems to believe differently, and that’s been a big problem that could cost him a lot of votes. All in all Rivera is favored to win, but there are 7 other candidates trying to change that.
THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
In 2013 City Councilor Dan Rivera became mayor by defeating political titan and incumbent mayor, Willie Lantigua. After two recounts and multiple challenges Rivera only edged out Lantigua by 81 votes.
Lantigua left the city and spent most of the last four years in the mountains of Tenares, Dominican Republic. He returned recently with a new fiancé and baby in tow. He told Commonwealth Magazine that he left for the Dominican Republic to give Rivera a chance to fail or succeed on his own. He says he came back to run again because he thinks Rivera is “just not doing the job”.
In the irony of ironies, Lantigua recently received the endorsements of some heavy hitters in the Lawrence Police Department. Ironic, because Lantigua laid off 30 cops and 29 firefighters almost immediately after taking office in 2010 and accused firefighters of setting fires to make him look bad. Despite his rocky relationship with the police, most officers who spoke to The Valley Patriot shared the same sentiment. One encapsulated it perfectly.
“At least with Lantigua we knew where he stood and more importantly we knew where we stood – even if we didn’t like it. With Rivera it depends on how hot his coffee was this morning. I don’t like the guy, but I’m voting for Lantigua.”
“I get along with Willie. I always liked Dan. But, there’s not much difference between them,” said mayoral candidate Dr. Jorge Jaime.
“I’m a doctor by trade. I have no enemies like those two. It’s the same war every election. I am not coming in with a list of people to fire. I just want to run the city in a professional way. I think people are sick of the Rivera/Lantigua wars. It’s time for new leadership without agendas.”
Jaime was a DPW foreman until recently, when he declared himself a candidate for mayor. Shortly thereafter, Rivera transferred him to the position of Cemetery Director, a position that Jaime said he didn’t want, even though it comes with a significant pay increase.
Mayor Rivera said that his decision to transfer Jaime was not political pointing out that giving his opponent an extra $20,000 in pay that he can use to campaign against him would be “a pretty dumb thing to do” from a political perspective.
We have never seen a candidate like him and we probably never will again. Fired Lawrence police officer William Green brings campaigning for mayor to a whole new level. Green started his campaign run before he was fired in early 2017. As a police officer he would routinely broadcast internet videos calling the Lawrence police “corrupt” and “racist” and has lost all six lawsuits against the city. His firing is still under appeal.
He is pro marijuana, and promotes himself as a conservative republican who opposes sanctuary cities.
“I can’t tell you how many times as a cop I would arrest someone or see someone arrested for a really heinous crime only to find out they are here illegally. I’m not for deporting everyone here illegally, but if you commit a crime as a guest in this country it’s time to go home.”
Nieves is fiscally conservative and says his experience as head of the Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce makes him the best candidate to bring jobs back to Lawrence. He is a long shot candidate with very little money but says his number one focus is the opioid crisis and that, he believes, will propel him with voters past the primary. He says he is running because Dan Rivera is not focusing on the real problems in Lawrence, mainly crime and small business development.
He is touted by the media as the real alternative to Rivera and Lantigua but Maldonado is and has been a clone of Lantigua’s anti-white, anti-American policies since being elected. Maldonado is the former council president and worked at the Gr. Lawrence Tech School in Andover.
He supports sanctuary cities and has been a hostile force against everything Mayor Dan Rivera does. He has a strong base in the Arlington neighborhood and some of his biggest support comes from former Lantigua supporters. Maldonado being in the race hurts Lantigua and with the help of former Lantigua confidante Councilor Brian DePena – by far one of the most respected officials in Lawrence – Maldonado has a legitimate chance of winning the primary.
Maldonado is a landlord with lots of rental properties in the city.
Newcomer Paul Mallett is the only white candidate running for mayor.
“It doesn’t seem like things are changing for the better in Lawrence. I know that the current mayor’s intentions are good, but I hear a lot of talk about increasing the number of cops, but unfortunately that talk doesn’t translate to results. Look at the state we are in with homicides up to 23. If anything, you would think homicide would be lower. We need to work smarter not harder. I’m running for mayor because we aren’t really seeing the changes that are needed in this city. The poverty rates are extremely high. There are not enough people working. Among other things, it doesn’t seem like there’s any motivation to change that.
Nestor owns an insurance agency on Broadway in North Lawrence and has run for mayor and city council a number of times. He was an activist in the 90’s and early 2000’s but has been largely absent on the political scene in Lawrence over the last ten years. He is a family man and has a small constituency in North Lawrence. Nestor has very little money and is not expected to make the top five.