BEVERLY — City Council President Mike Cahill announced yesterday that he is running for mayor, setting up what could be the city's most competitive mayoral race in years.
Cahill joins incumbent Mayor Bill Scanlon and former City Council President Tim Flaherty as major candidates who have joined the race. Scanlon has won a record eight mayoral elections, while Flaherty and Cahill have both been the leading vote-getters in City Council races.
Cahill said he decided to run because, "We need a new way of doing business in Beverly."
"We need a leader who will throw open the doors to the mayor's office and invite this whole incredibly talented community to the table," he said.
Cahill, a 49-year-old Beverly native, served five terms as the city's state representative from 1993 to 2002 and ran an unsuccessful campaign for state treasurer in 2002.
After nearly a decade out of political office, he ran for City Council in 2009 and topped the ticket to become council president. He is a lawyer and the executive director of the Alliance of Massachusetts YMCAs.
Scanlon said yesterday that he was not surprised that Cahill has entered the race.
"He's certainly been giving it consideration for a long time," Scanlon said. "The more the merrier, I guess."
Scanlon is scheduled to announce his candidacy tonight at a fundraiser at Soma restaurant on Cabot Street.
Flaherty, a 43-year-old funeral director who served five terms on the City Council from 1999 to 2008, announced his candidacy in October.
A fourth candidate, retired U.S. Army veteran Euplio Marciano, said he also plans to run. Marciano ran for mayor in 2007 but did not raise any money.
Scanlon, 70, has won each of his last four elections with at least 59 percent of the vote since he was upset by Tom Crean in 2001. Now in his eighth two-year term, he is the longest-serving mayor in the city's history.
Asked about the challenge of taking on Scanlon and Flaherty, Cahill said, "My decision took into account a lot of things, but most central to it has been this long-held desire to serve the city and a real belief that the time is now."
Cahill said his decision to run should not affect the way he deals with Scanlon on city business over the next several months.
"I don't like to play politics. It's not who I am," Cahill said. "I have great respect for the mayor, and I have every intent that I will do everything I need to do in the coming months. I know the mayor feels the same way."
Cahill is still carrying more than $75,000 in debt from his campaign for state treasurer in 2002. All of the debt is in loans that he made to his own campaign. Cahill said he has paid off a $1,750 debt listed on his campaign finance report for a poll he conducted late last year while deciding whether to run for mayor.
Asked about his campaign debt, Cahill released a statement that said, "In 2001-2002, while waging a 16-month-long campaign for statewide office, I incurred campaign debt. For the next several years, I worked hard to resolve that debt (mostly with my own money) and have done so. At present, the only remaining money owed is owed to me for numerous loans I've made over time to my campaign committee."
Cahill began fundraising in November for the upcoming election while deciding whether to run for mayor or for re-election to the City Council. He said he was encouraged by the fact that he has raised more than $8,000.
"What I believe that shows is that I'm a viable, legitimate, serious candidate," he said. "It doesn't assure anything, but it's a strong start."
Candidates cannot take out nomination papers at City Hall until April 1. If more than three candidates are in the mayor's race, a preliminary race will be held in September. The final election is Nov. 8.
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or firstname.lastname@example.org.