LAWRENCE, Mass. (AP) — Ballots from the Lawrence mayoral election were locked in a vault under police guard Wednesday in anticipation of a possible recount in the nonpartisan race, with challenger Daniel Rivera claiming a narrow victory over incumbent William Lantigua.

Unofficial preliminary returns from Tuesday’s election showed Rivera with 60 more votes than Lantigua out of more than 15,000 cast in the Merrimack Valley city. Under Massachusetts law, municipal candidates have 10 days to petition for recounts in one or more city wards.

Lawrence police officer guards a vault where the ballots from Tuesday night's election are being held. (Christina Hager/WBZ)

Lawrence police officer guards a vault where the ballots from Tuesday night’s election are being held. (Christina Hager/WBZ)

Lantigua said late Wednesday afternoon it was too early to say whether he would ask for a recount. The mayor and his lawyer, Sal Tabit, said at a news conference that they planned to wait until provisional ballots and all absentee ballots were tabulated.

“The truth is, there is no answer to that question at this time,” Tabit said. He also cited reports of technical problems with some voting machines during the election.

Rivera told reporters Wednesday he hoped Lantigua would not challenge the results, but said he was prepared for any action.

“We fought for every vote, and we’re going to protect every vote to make sure this election does not get stolen,” said Rivera, a city councilor.

The 58-year-old first-term incumbent, the state’s first popularly-elected Latino mayor, has faced several high-profile political troubles during his four-year term. He was recently named in a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Martha Coakley that alleged he violated campaign finance laws.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Carl Stevens reports

Two associates of the mayor, including his former chief of staff, pleaded not guilty in June to corruption charges. Lantigua himself has not been charged with any crimes and a recall effort mounted by opponents two years ago failed to collect enough certified signatures to move forward.

Secretary of State William Galvin, the state’s top elections official, said his office worked with Lawrence officials after the election to secure the ballots, which were placed in sealed containers and locked in the vault at the Lawrence elections department.

“Campaign representatives recorded each seal number and were permitted to take pictures of the containers holding the ballots and other precinct election materials,” Galvin’s office said in a statement Wednesday. “Thereafter, the vault was sealed in the presence of all parties.”

Lawrence police officers will remain stationed outside the entrance to the vault until any recount is completed, the statement said.

Rivera was endorsed by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas and the local teachers union.

State Rep. Marcos Devers, who also ran for mayor and endorsed Rivera after finishing out of the running in the September preliminary election, said he expected Lantigua to request a recount but did not think it would succeed.

He said Wednesday that voters accomplished a “great change” in ousting the incumbent.

“We want the rest of the state to see Lawrence as a great place,” Devers said.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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