What makes Michelle Wu different?

City Councilor Michelle Wu speaks to voters as they're provided complimentary meals by Fresh Food Generation Food Truck at a Dorchester polling station on Tuesday. Photo by Anoushka Dalmia/BU News Service

Rhian Lowndes
BU News Service

Boston city councilor Michelle Wu spoke Saturday about how her life has influenced her mayoral campaign and what makes her stand out from the other candidates.

Wu hosted a student press conference over Zoom Saturday afternoon. Wu said that she, like the  student journalists on the call, was part of the younger generations who “have the greatest stake in what’s to come and what our future looks like.”

Wu announced in September that she would be seeking the role currently held by Marty Walsh, and her fellow city councilor Andrea Campbell joined the race just weeks later.

She built her career as the youngest person on the Boston city council for six years after being elected in 2013 at just 28 years old. She is the first Asian American woman to serve on the council and was elected as its first woman of color president in 2016. 

In an exclusive conversation with BU News after the press conference, Wu discussed what differentiates her from the other candidates.

The councilwoman said her experience of caring for her mother, who has a mental illness has shown her “how big the gaps are for people who are caring for a loved one living with mental illness or trying to raise kids in this moment of the pandemic with schools shut down.” 

In a May editorial for the Boston Globe, Wu wrote about how, at the age of 23, she became her mother’s primary caregiver and raised two of her younger siblings. 

Wu’s mother now lives on the first floor of Wu’s home in Roslindale, which during the conference offered a glimpse into a very relatable pandemic-life for Wu. Her mother came into her office during the call and dropped mail on Wu’s desk – a maternal moment that students who have been attending Zoom classes from home with their families can relate to.

The mayoral candidate is a mother herself, with a  five-year-old attending Boston Public Schools. But Wu told BU News that this is actually her “second round” as a BPS mom. She raised her younger sister in Boston and was her legal guardian through to graduation.

Wu is also a daughter of immigrants and in March wrote an editorial for the Globe about the importance of diversity on the council.

“When I first ran for City Council in 2013, I was told over and over again that I would likely lose, and for reasons beyond my control: I was too young, not born in Boston, Asian American, female,” she wrote. 

Wu followed Ayanna Pressley to become the second woman of color on Boston city council, and by 2019 people of color and women made up more than half of the council.

Her lived experience, which Wu emphasized throughout the conference, impacts her work as a councilwoman. Wu has authored legislation on healthcare, housing, and the environment, and she said her campaign is about making space for underrepresented communities. 

“My commitment is always to running a campaign that is reflective and focused,” she said. “Reflective of the community and focused on empowering everyone to have a voice in what happens in our city.”

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