In Lawrence, Mayor Dan Rivera won a divisive rematch against his predecessor Willie Lantigua in the Hispanic-majority city.

Unofficial results showed Rivera prevailing narrowly, 51 percent to 49 percent. The margin of 440 votes, though, was five times what it was four years ago.

Supporters at Rivera’s victory party chanted four more years in Spanish (“Cuatro mas!”) as the mayor took the stage at an Irish pub off the city’s main drag. With tears in his eyes, Rivera addressed supporters in Spanish and English.

“Sometimes you know when you want a reform … to make something better,  you’ve got to do the hard stuff,” he said. “And when you do the hard stuff, you definitely bring enemies.”

The campaign centered around which candidate could best handle the city’s crime. The opioid epidemic has hit Lawrence hard. So far this year, the city of 80,000 has had eight murders.

Jahely Cespedes, 23, said she has felt less safe in the last few years.

“There’s a lot of drug overdose here, and like a lot of robberies, especially the teenagers. They just break into the house,” Cespedes said. She voted for Lantigua.

But Rachel Torres, also 23, suggested that returning Lantigua to the mayor’s office would increase crime.

“When Lantigua was in office, there was a lot of corruption in our police department," Torres said. "Actually, immediately as Rivera came in, he did away with a lot of the corrupt officers and the people who were in power.” 

Rivera lost support of fire and police unions, who actively supported Lantigua.

Torres said she voted for Rivera because he has brought progress to Lawrence. “People have been advancing in this city. People are feeling a lot better. The economy has been a lot cushier to us,” she said.

Talking to reporters later, Rivera vowed to do more to address crime in the city.

“The reality is that the wave of crime that we’re seeing is absolutely connected to the opioid crisis," the mayor said. "So if we’re not putting more money into treatment … we need to do that, because if we don’t, we could arrest 40 people a day, and it doesn’t matter. They’re going to end up back on the street."

Lantigua conceded the election and said he hoped the close race would cause Rivera to be more careful in how he runs the city.