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Needham woman eyes Rep. Lynch's seat

Posted by Leslie Anderson  March 22, 2010 01:22 PM

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Spurred by US Representative Stephen Lynch’s opposition to the sweeping health care bill, a group of Democrats is rounding up signatures for a Needham woman to challenge Lynch in the September primary.

Supporters said the grass-roots effort to ‘‘draft Harmony Wu’’ for Lynch’s seat began on Saturday, after Lynch said he would vote against the largest expansion of health care coverage in four decades.

Wu, 38, a Needham Town Meeting member and active volunteer for Obama’s presidential campaign, said she took out papers for the Ninth Congressional District seat on Friday but has not decided yet if she will run.

‘‘The support that has come in such quick order, it shows you that there is a serious desire for better representation,” Wu said today. “I am seriously considering this, and it doesn’t take me by surprise that there are many people who are concerned about not being represented by Mr. Lynch and wanting something different.”

Lynch, a South Boston Democrat, was one of 34 Democrats - and the only member of the Massachusetts delegation - who voted Sunday night against the overall health care bill. Lynch then cast an "aye" in support of the compromise repairs that are going to the Senate.

Lynch, who is in his fifth term, said last week he opposed the package because it did not put enough pressure on insurance companies to reduce costs. He did not return calls for comment today.

Wu said she took out papers after she and several of her supporters grew dissatisfied with the Lynch’s stance, calling it ‘‘an absolutely mystifying vote.’’

“I have been contacting my congressman since the reform debate started,” Wu said. “I’ve tried to have this relationship with my congressman’s office. I’ve been contacting him, encouraging others to contact him by e-mail, phone, walk in, however. I’ve done all the things a citizen can do to reach out to my congressman, and I wasn’t getting through.”

Wu said the situation has taken her by surprise. And while she has taken out papers to run, she says she still has many things to consider.

“I have 6-year-old twins, and my husband went out of town the day I pulled papers, so there is a lot of thinking to do,” she said. “And the fact that this seems like a viable and serious candidacy means this is something I have to take seriously.”

While Wu considers her options, her backers continue to push a run, believing Wu to be the right candidate for the job.

“I think she would be an extraordinary candidate and have an extraordinary campaign,” said Sarah Compton, who has helped start Wu’s potential campaign. “There is already evidence of the power of the campaign she could have.”

Wu’s supporters sent groups to Needham, Medfield, and South Boston to collect signatures for Wu’s nomination over the weekend. The district includes communities in Bristol, Norfolk, Suffolk, and Plymouth counties.

Compton estimated several hundred signatures have been collected, toward the required 2,000 signatures.

“It’s absolutely a grass-roots movement,” Compton said. “There are hardworking activists who got to know Harmony during the Obama campaign and have continued to work with her. This is a group of people who know her passion and know how versed she is on the issues, and see her capacity to organize and mobilize people.’’

Wu is the mother of two children, and is married to Jason Hornick, a Boston physician. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish from Amherst College, and a Ph.D in critical studies in cinema, television, and media from the University of Southern California. She previously taught visual media at Emerson College. While she mulls over her options, Wu said that Democrats like Lynch need to reexamine their priorities.

“I’m just a mom in Needham and I’m trying not to put my foot in my mouth,” Wu said. “But Mr. Lynch and other Democrats who are not working for progressive values really need to look hard and see what it is they’re working for.”

Jason Woods can be reached at jwoods@globe.com.

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