At the Franco-American Club on Park Street where his supporters gathered, Flaherty sipped a soda and said he didn't have much to say about the results. The 44-year-old funeral director won his home ward, Ward 5, but finished third in four other wards.
"It's not the way we wanted it to turn out," he said. "I wish the city well."
28 percent turnout
More than 6,700 of the city's 24,103 registered voters went to the polls, a 28 percent turnout that topped the turnouts for the four previous mayoral preliminaries in the 2000s.
The contest pitted three of the city's most successful politicians ever. Cahill was elected five times as the city's state representative, then led all candidates in last year's councilor-at-large race after a seven-year absence from politics. Flaherty, like Cahill, is a homegrown candidate from a large family who had won six City Council elections and twice topped the ticket to become council president.
They were squared off against Scanlon, who at age 71 had won a record eight mayoral elections.
Cahill supporter Brian Norris said the unusually high-quality field and the familiarity of all three candidates put many voters in a difficult position.
"My parents had two signs on their lawn, one for Mike and one for Tim," Norris said. "It was hard to know which way it was going to fall."
Norris said it was Cahill's long experience as a state representative, city councilor, teacher and coach that led him to victory.
"He's just been so integrated into the community for so long," Norris said. "Mike thrives on just digging into the issues, and he's obviously a great campaigner. I think people know this guy knows what he's talking about. You have to have a very strong candidate to convince somebody not to vote for Scanlon."