LAWRENCE — Daniel Rivera was declared the winner over Mayor William Lantigua after a daylong recount Saturday that added 23 votes to his still-tiny margin and officially affirmed his startling upset over one of the state’s most prominent and controversial politicians three weeks ago.
Rivera claimed victory, for the second time since Nov. 5. Lantigua did not concede. His lawyer said the mayor would decide as soon as today whether to challenge the result in Superior Court, where he would pin most of his hopes on a pool of about 100 so-called spoiled ballots that were ruled invalid on Election Day.
Short of an injunction from the court, Saturday’s six-hour hand recount of all 15,175 ballots cast on Nov. 5 clears the way for Rivera to take office on Jan. 2.
Both Rivera and Lantigua lost votes in the recount, but Lantigua lost more, allowing Rivera to extend his lead to 81 votes. The final tally gives Rivera 7,628 votes, a loss of six. Lantigua’s count dropped to 7,547 votes, down 29. Ninety-three ballots had no votes for mayor or had write-in votes with other names.
Rivera’s supporters let out a thunderous whoop and surrounded Rivera in the gym at the South Lawrence East Middle School, where the recount was held, as the city’s Board of Registrars affirmed the new numbers in a 3-0 vote at 4:01 p.m. The two-term city councilor then led a crowd of about 100 from the gym to a chilly parking-lot press conference as dark set in, where he asked the defeated mayor and his supporters to help him unify what he said is a divided city.
“We’re ecstatic, but the big word today is unity,” Rivera, 42, told his supporters in a five-minute statement, flanked by his wife, Paula, and three other candidates who ran in the preliminary election in September and then endorsed Rivera over the mayor, including state Rep. Marcos Devers.