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November 26, 2013

First Latino mayor concedes to rival

LAWRENCE, Mass. — Speaking over Spanish language radio, the first Latino to become mayor of a Massachusetts city has finally conceded defeat, three weeks after a disputed election saw him narrowly ousted by a fellow Latino and former supporter.

Mayor William Lantigua, a polarizing figure, told supporters Monday night he would not contest in court the Nov. 5 election outcome that saw him lose to Daniel Rivera by 58 votes out of 15,000 cast nor would he challenge a Saturday recount of the ballots that increased Rivera’s winning margin to 81 votes.

Nonetheless, Lantigua again questioned the validity of the election, declaring 100 “spoiled ballots” — votes disqualified by election officials — would have re-elected him to a second four-year term as mayor of this predominantly Hispanic city of 75,000.

Lantigua, 58, a native of the Dominican Republic, blamed the “racist media” for his defeat in remarks in English to a gaggle of news reporters after his concession address on La Maga AM 1400 radio.

“If my name were John Sullivan and I looked like some of you, my face would be on the cover of Money magazine or Forbes because of what I’ve done,” said Lantigua, a reference to his claim he saved Lawrence from a financial crisis by balancing the city budget but got little publicity for the achievement.

Rivera, at 42, becomes the youngest Dominican-American elected mayor in the U.S.

He was born in Lawrence to Dominican parents, served in the Army during Operation Desert Storm and went on to graduate from the University of Massachusetts and earn an MBA from Suffolk University in Boston. He was endorsed by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Congresswoman Niki Tsongas of Massachusetts.

As a city councilor, Rivera supported Lantigua his first year in office, but soon became a constant critic, contending Lantigua squandered an opportunity to cast Lawrence, a hardscrabble former mill city, as a good place to live, work and do business.

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