BEVERLY — The next mayor of Beverly won't be determined until six months from now on Nov. 8.
But in an election year in which three of the candidates have a long history of political victories, voters will also be facing a big decision in September.
Either Mayor Bill Scanlon, City Council President Mike Cahill or former City Council President Tim Flaherty will be eliminated from the race in the preliminary election Sept. 20. The presence of three candidates who have won a combined 20 city elections has added more urgency to the normally sleepy preliminary, when only the top two vote-getters will advance to the Nov. 8 final election.
"I've been knocking on people's doors and they say, 'It's so early, the election is so far away,'" Cahill said. "There are 16,000 doors in this city. To me Sept. 20 feels like it's just a blink away." Scanlon has won eight times for mayor, more than anyone in the city's history. Cahill won five elections for state representative in the 1990s and topped the ticket in his return to politics as a councilor-at-large candidate in 2009. Flaherty won election six times for at-large councilor, twice earning the most votes of the three at-large winners, before deciding not to run for re-election two years ago.
The only blemishes are Scanlon's loss to Tom Crean in his 2001 re-election bid and Cahill's failed bid for state treasurer in 2002.
Despite their past success, none of the three has faced each other in an election, and none can afford to take the preliminary for granted.
Like Cahill, Flaherty said he has already begun knocking on doors. Flaherty announced his candidacy in November, held his first fundraiser in March and has another scheduled for June 1.
Flaherty said he would have been campaigning early even if there weren't a competitive September preliminary.