Cocoon Politics

I am back, and with plenty happening to write about. Congratulations to the newly elected Mayor of Lawrence, Dan Rivera, who worked as hard as a candidate could to win that race.

In Lawrence one term Mayor William Lantigua had built up a mystique of electoral invincibility after years of success in winning Lawrence elections, for himself, and for others. But since taking over as Mayor four years ago Mayor Lantigua has been buffeted by a relentless stream of bad media, with early political enemies joined on the front lines by the Eagle Tribune, which produced exceedingly negative coverage of the Lantigua Administration. No need to rehash all of the controversies, but suffice to say that much of the negative coverage was warranted, and for all of his political acumen the Lantigua response to the ongoing media issues was to retreat into the safety of his strong cocoon of support among a hard core of loyalists. This retreat was evidenced by his embargo of “traditional” media, where he allowed the negativity to pile up unanswered. That is always an error in politics, but Mayor Lantigua made the political determination that he could ride out the storm by withdrawing to comfortable terrain. The primary results appeared to validate his strategy, with Lantigua simply crushing the field. (Lantigua 5725 to Rivera 2799). In advance of that primary, when asked my view on WCAP, I said Lantigua could finish first, or last. Without question the public battering he had taken would have meant defeat for any standard candidate. But Lantigua is no standard candidate, and his primary victory fueled the aura of invincibility, and really took the air out of the tires of the anti-Lantigua forces.

When I looked at the numbers I failed to see a plausible road to victory for Dan Rivera. But Dan Rivera, from day one, saw what I and others could not see. He took the primary numbers, and pointed to the fact that all opponents combined had gotten more votes than Lantigua. (6234 combined to 5725 Lantigua) I looked at those numbers as well, but thought that Lantigua would grow sufficiently in the general election to hold off Rivera. Rivera, despite the big primary deficit, began to seal Lantigua into a corner, picking up the endorsement of every one of the unsuccessful primary candidates, including State Rep. Marcos Devers. Lantigua, looking at the numbers in the same way I did, made a fatal error in not trying to divide his opposition. Instead of concentrating 100% on the election Lantigua, in my opinion, began to think about mopping up the opposition after the victory that never came. In particular he truly gave Rep. Devers some strong incentive to not only endorse Rivera, but to work hard for him as well. Could Lantigua have secured Devers neutrality? The Willie Lantigua of four years ago would have made every effort. Mayor Lantigua made none.

Mayor Lantigua also had the misfortune of running against a candidate who is schooled in the science of politics, and willing to work just as hard as he does on campaigns. Candidate Rivera also has great relationships that he used to give his campaign status and credibility. Having the endorsements of Elizabeth Warren and Niki Tsongas brought, in my view, a very strong sense of campaign momentum when Dan needed it most. In the end a candidates success or failure usually rests with the candidate, and Dan Rivera deserves the credit for winning a tough campaign. But it is always nice to get a little help from your friends.

Mayor Lantigua squandered what was a unique opportunity. Was everything he did wrong? Absolutely not. Was some of the opposition rooted in reflexive negativity to anything he was going to do? No doubt. But he brought a perceived arrogance, and simply thought that he could survive inside a cocoon, and ignore ALL of the basic rules of politics. His skill set almost pulled it off, but Mayor Dan Rivera is now poised to bring good government principles to a City that so badly needs them. Mayor Dan Rivera has an entire State pulling for his success.

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