Tim Flaherty's comeback try has put an interesting twist is the councilor-at-large race in Beverly.

For months it appeared that Jason Silva's departure after two terms would make things relatively easy for fellow incumbents Paul Guanci and Matt St. Hilaire – even with newcomer Julie Flowers, a minister at the First Baptist Church, running an energetic campaign.

There are three at-large seats on the board. And unlike in the neighboring cities of Salem and Peabody, where the council presidency is rotated among all members, in Beverly that post goes to the at-large candidate receiving the most votes in the last election. The position has been held by Guanci since 2012.

Flaherty, 49, is well-known in the city and had previously held the presidency before opting to step down from the council in 2009 to devote more time to his family and work as an executive with the YMCA.

With Mayor Mike Cahill running unopposed, the at-large race is certain to draw plenty of attention this fall with issues ranging from school spending to development and traffic concerns in North Beverly.

Also in the running for one of the at-large posts in local businessman Brian DApice who in an interview earlier this year listed taxes and housing affordability as among his chief concerns.

Will Guanci be able to hold onto the presidency with Flaherty in the mix? Or might voters opt for somebody new to lead the council?

What also makes the race worth watching is the fact that while candidates are not listed by party, Guanci and St. Hilaire are prominent in Republican circles while Flowers appears to have the support of many in the Democratic establishment locally.

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It appears Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt is backing down from his position that there ought to be an outright ban on marijuana sales in the city once the Legislature ends its bickering and decides how to implement the 2016 referendum vote legalizing the drug in Massachusetts.

A number of communities have been criticized for voting in favor of legalization, then seeking to ban sales of the drug within their jurisdictions. At least Peabody and Danvers (where officials are also debating where to allow pot shops, if anywhere) both rejected the measure, albeit by relatively narrow margins. Overall in Essex County, the measure passed 135,053-113,555. In Salem, where the issue has attracted little controversy, 13,046 voted yes, and only 8,636 no.

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Speaking of hypocrisy, one has to wonder how some (mostly Republican) politicians have the temerity to declare themselves "pro-life" when it comes to abortion, but steadfastly resist efforts to place tighter restrictions on gun ownership.

A recent study by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that an estimated 1,300 children under the age of 17 die from gunshot wounds every year.

More than half of those deaths are the result of homicides and another third are self-inflicted. It's second only to motor vehicle accidents in terms of injury-related fatalities.

Just as shocking is the report's finding that of all children aged up to 14 years who are killed by guns in high-income countries worldwide, more than 90 percent are killed right here in the U.S.A.

Pro-life indeed.

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A single outburst during a packed town-hall-style meeting at Beverly's Cabot Theater last weekend wasn't such a bad thing. While many of his GOP colleagues are ducking angry constituents, U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Salem, has held a series of such forums to talk about the issues and explain his votes in Congress.

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