Incoming Councilor Michelle Wu gathered her supporters downstairs in a Back Bay restaurant Monday night to say thank you for the time and effort that buoyed her to City Hall.
But Wu made no public mention of the controversy swirling around her recent decision to support Bill Linehan’s bid to become City Council president. She opted instead to focus on the celebratory nature of the event, telling the crowd of about 100 that she was humbled by their support.
“This is an effort based on collaboration and inclusion,” she said from atop a table at Lir, the restaurant and pub where she publicly kicked off her campaign a year ago.
When asked during a brief interview if last week’s tumult over Linehan had come up in conversation Monday night, Wu demurred, saying: “Everybody here tonight is here to celebrate.”
And while the atmosphere was jovial and the room was filled with friendly faces, including a few elected officials, her choice to back the South Boston councilor who is thought to be one of the more conservative voices on the council was certainly on the minds of some.
Activist Sarah Wenig, who sits on the board of the NAACP’s Boston chapter and is a member of the Ward 5 Democratic Committee, said she was so disturbed by the backlash from progressive voters that she had to come and support Wu.
“I want to see her really turn the table on these people and make them look silly,” said Wenig, who did not vote for Wu. “I am a progressive, and these people are snobs, though they may not be wealthy. This is snobbery.”
Clare Hayes of the South End said she had heard “rumblings” that some of those disaffected by Wu’s choice would cause a scene Monday night, but she was pleased that did not happen.
“I have been a supporter from the beginning,” Hayes said, mentioning Wu’s life experience, professional resume, and youth. “I trust Michelle, and I have got respect for Michelle. I know she made the decision on the basis of good thinking.”
Many of those who voted for Wu, 28, a former campaign aide to US Senator Elizabeth Warren, a progressive, have taken to social media, saying they feel bamboozled. Some have threatened to try to ensure that Wu is a one-term councilor for supporting Linehan’s efforts.
Linehan has represented South Boston, Chinatown, and the South End since 2007 and is considered by some to represent an old guard of Boston politics.
He has come under fire for his support of excluding gay and lesbian groups from marching in South Boston’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, as well as his initial opposition to allowing state Senator Linda Dorcena Forry, a Haitian-
American, to host next year’s traditionally Irish-themed political breakfast held that day.
Now he is actively seeking the council presidency and trying to line up the necessary votes. Last week, Linehan announced that he believed he had the support of the incoming councilor, which set off the firestorm and prompted Wu to issue a lengthy statement defending the decision.
It is a decision that Joel Wool, a community activist from Dorchester, said Monday night that he does not support, though he backs Wu.
“Someone who has abused structural power is someone who should not be council president,” Wool, who is active in environmental and food justice issues, said of Linehan. “I respect Michelle, but disagree with her calculation that this will bring people together.”
Akilah Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.