Councilor Bill Linehan, in a tight race with challenger Suzanne Lee in Boston’s District Two, abruptly canceled a debate planned for Thursday. Linehan said Wednesday that organizer, Joanne McDevitt, who is a longtime Lee supporter, has a bias and that she was inflexible about rescheduling the event after learning that Linehan had a prior commitment.
The debate, sponsored by eight South Boston civic organizations, was set for 6:30 p.m. at the Lithuanian Club.
In canceling, Linehan’s campaign said McDevitt “has not been able to keep her politics . . . separate from this event.’’
McDevitt responded by saying that Linehan has made the issue personal by singling her out publicly. “The comments attack me because of my political point of view,’’ she said.
McDevitt is a volunteer for Lee and helped the candidate in her close election against Linehan two years ago.
McDevitt, who had helped to organize the debate, said she was notified by the Linehan campaign Tuesday that he had a scheduling conflict and would not make the debate. She said she talked to the campaign numerous times, trying to work out different options.
“This is very distressing. . . . We really wanted to do this,” McDevitt said. “We feel this is very important to the residents of South Boston to be able to see the candidates side by side.”
The Linehan-Lee contest is one of the most closely watched races. Lee, a Chinatown community leader, lost to Linehan by 97 votes two years ago.
In new video advertisement, Linehan touts experience
Bill Linehan, tieless and relaxed, looks dead into the camera and urges voters to support him for a fourth term on the Boston City Council.
In a new YouTube video this week, he is hoping to drive home a message to voters that he will remain a steady, practical councilor amid sweeping changes in Boston, including its political leadership. “It’s a changing city,’’ Linehan says in the video, which he plans to send to residents in the district. “It’s been in a changing environment . . . and we need people who understand how it works and have a stake in it. We are committed. We are committed all the way.”
In what is seen as a tight, contested race on the City Council, Linehan has been trying to distance himself from his competitor, Chinatown resident Suzanne Lee.
Two weeks ago, the councilor hired Regan Communications Group, which produced and distributed the video.
Lee has stepped up efforts to unseat Linehan in the district, which encompasses the South End, Chinatown, Bay Village, downtown, the Wharf District, and a section of Beacon Hill.
Her campaign said she will continue to mount a serious challenge by taking her message directly to voters.
“Suzanne has been out there talking with voters every single day and for many, many months,’’ said Evan England, her campaign manager. “She’s receiving great reception in all areas of the district.”
Lee announced some union endorsements this week, including Service Employees International Union Massachusetts State Council and United Healthcare Workers East.
Connolly backed by Ward 5 Democratic Committee
The Boston Ward Five Democratic Committee has endorsed Councilor at Large John Connolly in the mayoral race.
The endorsement Tuesday followed speeches from mayoral and City Council candidates and their supporters, the group said Wednesday. Connolly addressed the committee, and former candidate Charlotte Golar Richie spoke on behalf of state Representative Martin J. Walsh, Connolly’s opponent.
Ward Five includes the Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Fenway- Kenmore, and Bay Village.
“More than 50 people packed our meeting room in Copley Square, choosing our meeting over a televised mayoral debate and proving that this election is all about voters in all of Boston’s neighborhoods making personal choices about what course they think is best,” said Ross Levanto, chairman of the Ward Five committee.
On Tuesday, the committee also endorsed Jeffrey Michael Ross for a citywide council seat and Josh Zakim to be the next District Eight councilor.