BEVERLY — City Council President Mike Cahill topped the ticket, and Mayor Bill Scanlon came in a close second to survive one of the most competitive mayoral preliminary elections in the city's history yesterday.
Cahill finished with 2,467 votes to beat Scanlon by 194, but the city's longest-serving mayor outdistanced former City Council President Tim Flaherty by 417 votes to advance to the Nov. 8 final.
The impressive showing by Cahill, who won four of the city's six wards and tied Scanlon in Ward 6, signals a tough road ahead for Scanlon as he seeks a ninth term in office.
"Those numbers are fantastic," Cahill said to applause from his supporters at the Italian Community Center. "This is one of two wins that we need. We need another win in about six weeks. But let's enjoy this while we can."
Scanlon, who suffered a stunning loss to Tom Crean in 2001 before returning to office two years later, must have seen his political life flash before his eyes again as the numbers came in to his campaign headquarters on Cabot Street down from City Hall.
Scanlon had just over a 100-vote lead over Flaherty after the first three wards reported in, leaving him and his supporters eyeing the results quietly as campaign manager Joyce McMahon posted them on a screen. When the numbers from Ward 6 came in and gave Scanlon a more comfortable lead, his supporters finally began clapping.
"We're just going to have to work harder," Scanlon told the crowd. "If 100 people who voted for Cahill voted for me, it's a different result. It's razor-thin."
As Scanlon spoke, he got a congratulatory call from Flaherty.
"Well, thank you, Tim," Scanlon said. "You've been very well-intentioned, and I know you worked hard. You're a gentleman."