Reporter’s Notebook: Warren campaign aide Wu casts eyes on an at-large seat

Michelle WuMichelle WuMore than a month after her former boss won a US Senate seat, a 27-year-old ex-aide to consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren is launching a campaign of her own. Michelle Wu, a South End attorney who organized outreach to communities of color for the Warren campaign, said Tuesday she is launching a run for one of the City Council’s four at-large seats.

Wu, who also had Warren as a professor in her first semester at law school, has registered a campaign committee with the state’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance. “I believe in the city and I’m serious about wanting to serve the city,” said Wu, who moved to Boston from Chicago to attend Harvard. She will be up against four well-funded incumbents should all of them choose to run for reelection.

While voters can cast four votes for at-large, the current crop of at-large councillors – Ayanna Pressley, Felix Arroyo, John Connolly, and Stephen Murphy – has the benefit of higher name recognition.

A wait-your-turn mentality permeates Massachusetts politics, and it has been frequently endorsed by incumbent-loving voters and donors. (Pressley and Connolly are holding fundraisers this week. Pressley’s is at Doyle’s in Jamaica Plain, while Connolly is holding his at Empire Garden in Chinatown.)

In 2011, the last municipal election, the four incumbents were returned by a wide margin, with Pressley topping the ticket. Murphy came in fourth, 925 votes ahead of former City Councillor At-Large Michael Flaherty, who was angling to return to the council.

Municipal elections also tend to draw a different crowd than presidential ones. Turnout is usually lower, though Wu said she is optimistic. “I really hope that turnout in 2013 will be high, just like we saw in November 2012,” she said. “And I do think a large part of that was doing outreach community by community and meeting every group and every neighborhood where they are.”

That’s the type of outreach she did on the Warren campaign, she said, as well as in previous jobs. As a Rappaport Fellow in Law and Public Policy, she worked in the Menino administration, helping set up a one-stop shop for restaurants groping their way through the city’s permitting process. She also worked on bringing food trucks to City Hall Plaza.

Her entry into the at-large race was first reported by the Boston Phoenix’s David Bernstein.

The daughter of Taiwanese immigrants, Wu said she was also running to increase diversity on the City Council. Pressley is currently the only woman of color on the 13-member body. Asked if she has spoken with the incumbents about her campaign, Wu said she has had a number of conversations, but declined to detail them, saying she was focused on her own race. She is also focused on raising money for her run.

Steve Tompkins, whom she met on the Warren campaign, is chairing her run. Tompkins works as an aide to Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea Cabral. Wu’s sister Sherelle is listed as her campaign treasurer. Sherelle is a student at Suffolk University who has worked for state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, a Jamaica Plain Democrat who represents parts of Dorchester and Mattapan.

“I’m looking forward to getting into the neighborhood and having a conversation,” Wu the candidate said.

Yancey holding hearings on personnel practices, Hubway

District 4 Councillor Charles Yancey, who chairs the Environment and Human Rights Committee is holding a pair of hearings this week. The first is scheduled for today (Dec. 13) at 9 a.m., with the authorization of a $300,000 grant for the expansion of a bike-sharing program on the agenda. The program, known as Hubway, has largely focused its locations in Boston proper, Cambridge, and Somerville. “I want to make sure that every neighborhood in the city of Boston has access to this program as quickly as possible, whether it’s in Charlestown, Mattapan, South Boston, or West Roxbury,” Yancey, who represents Dorchester and Mattapan, said in a statement.

The second hearing, set for tomorrow (Dec. 14) at 3 p.m., will focus on the racial make-up of city departments and those who are awarded city contracts.

Quote of Note: Pleasant Hill Baptist Church minister

“That’s all you can do, is cast your vote and pray for them,” Eleanor Chalmus, a minister at Pleasant Hill, told the Boston Globe this week, following a visit from US Sen.-elect Warren, who has been on a thank-you tour after her election. “We don’t know what’s coming across their desks. We have to believe and trust in them.”

This is a breathtakingly incorrect statement, since voters have plenty of resources available to them in between elections. A healthy democracy requires serious civic engagement, not just voting in an election and checking out afterwards.

Aside from reading a local and national newspaper, people can look to niche websites focused on Washington, like Politico and National Journal. If they prefer ideological silos, The Huffington Post and National Review are readily available. People interested in a political issue or bill can log onto THOMAS, which has bill texts, summaries, roll call votes, and other Congressional activity.

So yes, voters can find out what’s coming across an elected official’s desk. Then, armed with the information, they can take action, whether by phone calls or e-mails. Thanks to modern technology, the average person does not need to simply cast a vote on Election Day and pray for good results over the next several years.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Check out updates to Boston’s political scene at The Lit Drop, located at Email us at and follow us on Twitter: @LitDrop and @gintautasd.


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