South Boston Councillor Bill Linehan appears to have the seven votes he needs to become president of the City Council, sources told the Reporter on Monday.
The battle for the council’s top job historically has been a contentious and fluid affair, and there could be a shift before councillors vote in January. But insiders say Linehan seems to have the votes lined up, with newcomer Michelle Wu as his seventh supporter.
Wu, who did not respond to a voicemail message left on Monday night, was elected in November to one of the two at-large seats that opened up after City Councillors Felix Arroyo and John Connolly ran for mayor. The other expected votes, according to sources, come from outgoing City Councillor At-Large Stephen Murphy, a Hyde Park elected official who was re-elected in November but term-limited from serving as president; Allston-Brighton Councillor Mark Ciommo; East Boston Councillor Sal LaMattina; returning City Councillor At-Large Michael Flaherty of South Boston; and incoming Hyde Park Councillor Tim McCarthy.
Most have previously worked with Linehan in some capacity, including McCarthy, who was a youth fund director while Linehan worked in the city’s Parks Department. Wu was spotted a Linehan fundraiser in 2011, when he was facing Suzanne Lee, a former teacher. Lee won the preliminary but came up short in the final. Lee made another bid this year and again fell short, this time by a wider margin.
Jamaica Plain Councillor Matt O’Malley and Dorchester Councillor Tito Jackson, both members of the council’s younger wing, have also been eyeing the City Council presidency. The title offers several benefits, including a larger office, additional staffers and the ability to dole out committee assignments. The council president also becomes acting mayor when the mayor is out of town or steps down.
Wu, a South End attorney who worked on Elizabeth Warren’s 2012 U.S. Senate campaign, will likely experience intense pressure from progressive activists who are hopeful that she will change her vote, since Linehan, who was reelected to the 13-member council by a 1,072-vote margin, is widely viewed as a controversial figure. Several progressive activists who supported Wu in the recent municipal election took to Twitter and Facebook on Monday night to express their disappointment over the news  of her expected vote.
Linehan was elected to the council in 2007 after serving as director of operations for the Parks Department and special assistant to the city’s chief operating officer. His district includes South Boston, the South End and Chinatown.
Linehan drew criticism for his handling of last year’s council redistricting efforts. A collection of civic and voting rights groups called for him to relinquish his chairmanship of the redistricting committee, arguing that he removed the most diverse precincts from his district a year after winning reelection by a 97-vote margin.
The committee was tasked with redrawing the boundaries of the nine council districts and Mayor Thomas Menino twice rejected maps that emerged from the council, citing the high concentration of people of color in District 4, which includes Dorchester and Mattapan. The mayor eventually signed off on a map pushed by Jackson and O’Malley and opposed by Linehan.