BY PAUL LEIGHTON
---- — BEVERLY — Voters in Beverly will have lots of choices when they go to the polls today. And for the first time in two decades, Bill Scanlon won’t be one of them.
The absence of the city’s longest-serving mayor on the ballot will make for a historic election as the city prepares to choose his successor, as well as at least three new city councilors.
With an open mayor’s seat and several City Council and School Committee races, City Clerk Kathleen Connolly said voter turnout could reach 50 percent.
That would be a record for recent city elections, where the turnout since 1997 has ranged from a low of 27 percent to a high of 48 percent.
“I’ve got a feeling it’s going to be higher than usual because there are so many races this time,” Connolly said.
Scanlon has been mayor for 18 years and has been on the ballot every election since 1993. He announced in April that he is not seeking re-election.
The two candidates vying to succeed him, Mike Cahill and Wes Slate, spent yesterday making last-ditch appeals to voters. Both were waving to motorists on Route 62 near the Danvers line before 7:00 yesterday morning.
“I’m very hopeful,” said Cahill, a former state representative and city councilor. “People have been fantastic. There’s been a great corps of people helping me out all year long, and as we’ve gotten closer to Election Day, a lot more people have stepped up and said they want to help.”
Slate, the current Ward 2 city councilor, also said he sensed momentum as Election Day drew near.
“We’re very excited,” he said. “We’ve just had more and more people that have responded to the stuff that we’ve been doing. They’ve been coming over and saying they’re going to support me.”
Cahill finished ahead of Slate by more than 1,000 votes in last month’s preliminary election and is considered the favorite today. Slate’s hopes hinge on the estimated 5,000 to 6,000 more voters who are expected to turn out for the final election.
The two candidates acknowledge they agree on most issues, so the race will come down to which candidate voters think is more qualified to assume leadership of the city and its $106 million budget.
Cahill, 51, has touted his 10 years of experience as the city’s state representative and his two years as City Council president, as well as his work background as executive director of the Alliance of Massachusetts YMCAs and as a former teacher.
Cahill is a native of the city and comes from a large family; his five brothers are all helping on his campaign.
Slate, 63, has promoted himself as a “workhorse” who is up to the task of running the city. He has criticized Cahill’s work ethic, prompting Cahill to accuse him of “character assassination.”
Slate is also a former teacher who has worked in business since 1980, including his current job with Crane Electronics in Beverly.
Slate has been endorsed by Scanlon and city councilors Paul Guanci and Maureen Troubetaris. Cahill has been endorsed by councilors Jim Latter and Scott Dullea and School Committee member Kris Silverstein.
While the mayor’s race is naturally getting most of the attention, 10 other offices are also up for grabs. Eight of the nine City Council seats are being contested, as well as two of the six School Committee positions.
Voters will choose a new councilor in Ward 1, where longtime councilor Maureen Troubetaris is not seeking re-election; in Ward 2, where Slate is stepping aside to run for mayor; and at least one new at-large councilor to replace Scott Dullea, who is not running.
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
VOTING TODAY Voters go to the polls today in Beverly, Salem and Peabody to elect local officials -- mayors, city councilors and school committee members. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.