Tsongas dives into Lawrence’s mayoral cage match
Most Massachusetts officeholders don’t want to be seen anywhere near Lawrence City Hall these days if they don’t have to be there. Members of Congress tend to stay way far away from mayoral races, especially if it’s a dicey one like the November contest between incumbent William Lantigua and his challenger, Dan Rivera.
US Rep. Niki Tsongas doesn’t have the luxury of avoiding Lawrence. After all, she represents the Immigrant City in Washington. But she could have remained neutral in the mayor’s race. Yet the congresswoman who represents the Third Congressional District took a “no guts, no glory” stance in the most important municipal race outside Boston and endorsed Rivera.
Tsongas doesn’t have much to gain or lose by declaring her support for Rivera. If he wins, she looks brilliant. If Lantigua wins, she can expect fewer votes in Lawrence in 2014, where the mayor runs an exceptional get out the vote effort.
Barring the emergence of a very strong challenger, a drop-off in Lawrence votes is unlikely to hurt her reelection chances in the district. In short, she can win without Lantigua, and he would certainly have to play nice in the sandbox with the person who helps funnel federal dollars to Lawrence.
More likely, Tsongas is sending out two signals. Her decision probably won’t move many Latino voters in this majority-minority city that depends heavily on state aid. However, to the white voters among the 20,000 who did not turn out for the preliminary election, the congresswoman is perhaps telegraphing they should take a closer look at Rivera and head to the polls in November.
Tsongas and statewide politicians are clearly tired of the embarrassing telenovela that the Lantigua administration has become. US Sen. Elizabeth Warren has had to wear her game face with Lantigua, but happily did a photo-op with Rivera in Lowell last month.
Gov. Deval Patrick attended Lantigua’s 2010 inauguration and endured Frank Sinatra crooning “My Way,” which the new mayor used as his theme song for the festivities. However, last year in brief remarks during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a medical device company in Lawrence, Patrick acknowledged several politicians representing the city, including Tsongas, and three state lawmakers, but never even mentioned Lantigua.
Attorney General Martha Coakley raised eyebrows when she skipped the Lantigua inauguration at the last minute. Her reasons for that decision became clearer as the Lantigua administration unraveled with assorted scandals that resulted in the indictments of current and former city employees with close ties to the mayor. With City Hall mired in ongoing federal and state corruption investigations, the building is highly unlikely to be high on Coakley’s itinerary as she cruises around the state during her campaign for governor.
The conviction yesterday of Lawrence police officer P.J. Lopez on federal charges in a towing kickback scheme does not help Lantigua. That development, along with the Tsongas endorsement, only helps Dan Rivera. But neither development really hurts the mayor either. No one should underestimate William Lantigua in the epic battle for the hearts and minds of Lawrence voters.
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