BEVERLY — The people of Beverly have elected Bill Scanlon mayor more often than they have anyone in the city's history. But never has the winning margin been as close as it was yesterday.
Scanlon staved off a strong challenge by City Council President Mike Cahill to win by 353 votes and earn a ninth two-year term by the slimmest of margins.
"Oh, what a night!" Scanlon said as he stood on stage in front of about 100 cheering supporters at the Vittori-Rocci Post. "I've had the pleasure of being up here now nine times. This is the best one yet."
Cahill, a hometown boy who rose to state representative and then council president, gave Scanlon his toughest challenge since the incumbent was upset by Tom Crean in 2001.
Cahill had beaten Scanlon by 194 votes in the four-man September preliminary, but yesterday's final election drew nearly 4,000 more voters. Yesterday, Cahill beat Scanlon in Wards 2 and 3 and came within three votes of the mayor in Ward 1.
But Scanlon racked up victories in Wards 4, 5 and 6, the three wards with the highest voter turnouts, to make the difference. Scanlon won with 51 percent of the vote to Cahill's 48 percent. The voter turnout was 44 percent, comparable to previous turnouts but relatively low considering the close race and perfect weather.
Cahill drove from his gathering at the Italian Community Center to shake Scanlon's hand at the Vittori-Rocci Post, where a life-size cardboard cutout of a waving Scanlon stood outside the front door. Back at the ICC, Cahill said he was proud of his campaign and the support he received.
"We had high hopes going into today, so we're obviously disappointed," he said. "But this is a fantastic group of people who have been volunteering and supporting and helping out. As disappointed as I am personally, this was good for the city. The city hasn't had this kind of choice, this kind of election, in 20 years."