BEVERLY — Two broken voting machines delayed results in Tuesday's city election, according to local officials, leaving just three votes separating candidates Tim Flaherty and Matt St. Hilaire for the third, and final, at-large seat on the City Council.
With 10 precincts reporting as of 9:15 p.m., incumbent Paul Guanci was easily ahead of all of his competitors in the at-large race with 3,784 votes. First-time candidate Julie Flowers was in second with 2,993, trailed by Flaherty, a former councilor, at 2,831, and St. Hilaire, a sitting councilor, at 2,828.
But just minutes earlier, Flowers and St. Hilaire had been within four votes for that third seat, until results from another precinct arrived, putting her ahead of Flaherty.
Official results are still out, but unofficial reports shortly before 10 p.m. indicate the final tally is Guanci, Flowers and Flaherty, in that order.
First elected to the council in 2000, Guanci served as president from 2002 through 2007, and didn't seek re-election after that term. He was then re-elected in 2010 and has been the council president since 2012.
About 20 percent of the city's voters had cast a ballot Tuesday, according to unofficial results earlier in the evening. The city has 27,739 registered voters.
One of the reportedly broken machines was in Ward 3 Precinct 1, which also delayed results for the other contested race on the ballot between incumbent ward councilor Jim Latter and Rick Marciano, a perennial candidate in city elections.
"I'm cautiously optimistic," Latter said.
Flowers, 38, ran a social media-heavy campaign and took on a variety of city issues in her platform, including eliminating the $4,000 kindergarten tuition fee and increasing the city's affordable housing stock.
On kindergarten, Flowers was concerned over how this essential early education could be lost to children whose families can't afford it.
“You lose the opportunity for a child to begin to get acclimated to a full-day in elementary school and to be in the cafeteria, getting lunch with their friends,” she had said.
Balancing quality of life of residents with ongoing development was another issue Flowers spoke of. She also wants the city to delve deeper into recycling and diverting more trash.
Flowers grew up in Beverly and is a graduate of Beverly High School. After attending Wellesley College and then Harvard Divinity School, she became a minister at First Baptist Church on Cabot Street.
She's an active member of Beverly Rotary Club and serves on the Hannah Elementary School Parent-Teacher Organization and on the Harborlight Nursery School board of directors.
Flaherty, 50, is also a Beverly native and graduate of Beverly High School. He currently serves as the executive director for the Cape Ann YMCA in Gloucester. He mounted a challenge to former Mayor Bill Scanlon in 2011, along with current mayor and then councilor Michael Cahill.
Along with serving on City Council for 12 years, Flaherty led the McPherson Youth Center, is a past chairman for Beverly Homecoming, was a member of the Beverly Rotary Club and was an assistant football coach and a girls' track head coach at Beverly High School.
St. Hilaire, 40, has served two terms on the council. A Beverly native, he works as director of personnel for Gov. Charlie Baker's office.
Cahill, who was unopposed Tuesday, was also re-elected to another term as mayor.
Arianna MacNeill can be reached at 978-338-2527 or at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @SN_AMacNeill.