Wu launches grassroots mayoral campaign 

Her political philosophy blends policy with the personal

BOSTON CITY COUNCILOR Michelle Wu formally launched her candidacy for mayor on Tuesday with a campaign that promises to be a distinctive grassroots effort.

One example is her campaign website, which comes with a digital tool kit designed to help her supporters amplify her message on social media, on signs, and on apparel in six different languages. The tool kit even explains her campaign’s color scheme (it’s rooted in “Michelle’s signature dark purple”) and preferred typeface – Fellix, “an optimistic geometric voice.”

Wu takes this stuff very seriously. “This campaign is of and by grassroots supporters, and we can’t wait to see what you make!” the introduction to the tool kit says.

Her campaign-launch video shows the same attention to detail, casting the Boston city councilor and Harvard College and Harvard Law School grad as a representative of the minority communities of Boston that now make up a majority of the city’s population. 

Michelle Wu’s mayoral campaign launch banner.

“For too many during this pandemic and before, it’s been impossible to dream while you’re fighting to hold on, fighting to afford to stay, fighting for our kids, fighting for a system that wasn’t built for us, doesn’t speak our language, doesn’t hear our voices,” Wu says in videos in English, Spanish, and Mandarin

The 35-year-old Wu, who grew up in Chicago, announces her candidacy by saying: “I’m a mom, a daughter of [Taiwanese] immigrants, and I’ve lived my whole life knowing what it’s like to feel unseen and unheard even when you most need help.”

The video wraps Wu in the Black Lives Matter movement, showcases her support for Sen. Elizabeth Warren and US Rep. Ayanna Pressley, and references her grassroots effort to pressure the MBTA to back down on a fare increase by saying she “changed the conversation about what is just and what is possible.”

Wu didn’t win that fight over the MBTA fare increase, and she didn’t gain any traction on her call for all fares to be eliminated. In some circles, she was ridiculed for her naivete. But she got a conversation rolling about whether fares should automatically go up, the need for more transportation revenues, and whether Boston deserves a seat on the board overseeing the T. It’s a conversation that continues today, as the T experiments with lower fares to encourage greater ridership in low-income communities.

Wu has tackled these issues by blending policy advocacy with the personal experience of an actual T rider. It’s a potent combination, and one that served her well at meetings of the T’s Fiscal and Management Control Board and in one-on-one discussions with riders on T platforms.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

One of Wu’s sons is in the Boston school system and she made clear in an interview with the Boston Globe that she intends to use the same combination of policy advocacy and personal experience as she debates education issues with incumbent Mayor Marty Walsh.

“It will make a difference to have a mom in charge of the Boston public schools. Every issue is real. Every action or inaction is personal, and I live with the stakes of whether we’re meeting this moment and acting with the scale and urgency our families need,” she said.