Since the late ’80s or early ’90s Willie Lantigua has been involved in every city election in Lawrence in some capacity or another.
Whether as a candidate, adviser, campaign manager, or as someone who recruited candidates, Lantigua has always been a force to be reckoned with in Lawrence elections.
He has been a state rep. and the mayor, but for the last four years Lantigua has remained on the sidelines waiting for his chance at a rematch with Dan Rivera.
This year was that chance.
He lost to Rivera four years ago, came back a year later to challenge State Rep. Marcos Devers and lost, and now has lost a third time.
In the wake of Lantigua’s defeat this month, there are rumblings in Lawrence that “Lantigua is finished” and that “the Lawrence voters will never make that mistake again.”
Naive and reckless thinking like this is what makes Lantigua a contender every time he runs. Underestimating Lantigua always gives him an edge, because he is not someone who engages in traditional campaigning. All his campaigning is word of mouth, person to person.
Think about this.
Dan Rivera spent more than ten times the amount of money spent by Willie Lantigua. Lantigua spent $13,000, Rivera spent $300,000. Yet Rivera’s additional spending only got him little more than 350 votes more than the man with the worst reputation in New England, perhaps the country.
The final tally;
7,987 for Rivera
7,625 for Lantigua
That’s a 362 vote difference.
Willie Lantigua is far from finished.
In fact, I would argue, Willie Lantigua is just warming up.
Cunning and calculated, Lantigua will continue to be a kingmaker by recruiting candidates for council, school committee, etc. who will be loyal to him. He will continue to throw obstacles in the way of his political “enemies” whether he holds public office or not.
While most politicians get the hint after the voters reject them three times in a row, Lantigua sees the three losses as increasing his odds next time around, by law of averages. Politics is a numbers game of opportunities and percentages.
And Lantigua is a master of that game.
So what is next for Lantigua?
We all know that first term State Rep. Juana Matias is vacating her freshman seat to run for Congress after defeating Marcos Devers only one year ago.
That leaves an open state rep. seat in Lawrence. A seat once held by Willie Lantigua. A seat where the district is carved up geographically to consist of Willie Lantigua’s strongest precincts.
Even if Marcos Devers were to get into that race for another rematch (Devers beat Lantigua 3 years ago), Lantigua would not be running against an incumbent, giving him front runner status going in.
Then there’s Barbara L’Italien who is also running for Congress, vacating her State Senate seat and paving the way for either Lantigua or Rivera to run for that open seat… maybe both of them.
No, no, don’t make the mistake of thinking Lantigua has any shame about his losses, or that he will be going away any time soon.
For his part, Dan Rivera is and has been rumored to run for Congress to fill the open seat being vacated by Niki Tsongas next year. He has been groomed by the national party for that seat since he was an aide to Tsongas 20 years ago.
Rivera could run for Congress in 2018 and remain as mayor, but if he wins, that would vacate the mayor’s office just one year into his term, paving the way for … you guessed it, a Lantigua return.
With a core base of 7,625 voters in a city where the vast majority of the people do not vote, even in big elections, Lantigua will continue to be a force to be reckoned with for a long time to come.