LAWRENCE, Mass. - The race for mayor of Lawrence is one of the state's most anticipated races as a controversial former mayor is running against the incumbent.
The City of Lawrence is expected to have a higher voter turnout than Boston, in large part due to the contentious race between former mayor William Lantigua and incumbent Dan Rivera.
It's been four years since Lantigua and Rivera faced off in the race for mayor of Lawrence when Lantigua lost by 81 votes.
Despite Lantigua asking for a recount, Rivera still took the win, which is leading voters to call this a revenge race for the former mayor.
After spending two years in the Dominican Republic, Lantigua is back from political exile and ready to challenge Rivera.
"Voters coming in, I've seen split household family members voting for one and voting for the other one, so it's gonna be hard to determine who's gonna be the winner," said Richard Reyes, the Principal Accountant Clerk of the Lawrence election division.
More than 30 percent of the city's registered voters cast ballots in the September primary, roughly twice the voter turnout in Boston.
By noon today, almost 1,200 ballots were requested from the city's election division with about 900 returned.
The city says is has received more absentee ballots for this mayoral election than for the presidential election.
While overall crime is down and the city has seen four budget surpluses under Rivera's term, homicides remain high and taxes have been raised twice.
Even after more than 3,000 people voted to recall Rivera from his position in 2015 in a petition that never made it to ballot due to an insufficient number of valid signatures, the people of Lawrence haven't forgotten about Lantigua's criminal past.
Years of state and federal investigations into illegal activities like bribery and stealing city resources have certainly tarnished Lantigua's reputation for voters.
"That gentleman right there is a thief, Lantigua, you can't trust him at all," said Eliott Vasquez of Lawrence. "The whole time he was here for the four years nothing got done in the city at all, crime went up."
Vasquez says he's lived in Lawrence his whole life and was outraged by the Lantigua administration.
"All the indictments that he had, and he's free from it, but all the people around him fell for it," Vasquez said. "This guy is terrible, terrible. He does not belong here."
Receiving warm hugs at District B4's polling place, Ariel and Dorothy Mercer disagree.
"Everything about that was wrong cause all the charges were dropped in the court," said Ariel. "That means everything was a lie, everything what they say about him was not true."
Dorothy Mercer says the investigations into Lantigua's past don't concern her because she thinks "he can clean up the city again" and believes he can be more successful than Rivera has been during his current term.
Lantigua tells Boston 25 News reporter Crystal Haynes that, even after the Eagle Tribune reported the recent state seizure of over 17,000 in campaign funds dating back to 2015, he's not worried about any of it.
"Take my pulse? Take your pulse? Ok, what do you think? Nice and slow, you can hardly hear my heartbeat, I'm good," Lantigua said.
Rivera's team said he will not be making any comments to the media until the polls close at 8 p.m.
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