Brianna Wu Ends 2020 Candidacy

Brianna Wu announced April 28 she has ended her 2020 campaign for Congress. It was Wu’s second attempt to unseat incumbent Stephen Lynch in Massachusetts’ District 8. Both are Democrats.

Her statement on Medium, titled “How would I feel if someone died going to vote for me?” explains why the social effects of the pandemic and associated risks led to her decision to drop out of the race.

…Before the coronavirus hit, my campaign was very well poised to compete. Slowly and steadily, we’ve built up an army of small dollar donors, and every quarter our filing was larger than the last….

Most of that money had been invested into a killer field operation. This had been my plan for two years: to quietly raise money, building up an army. And then, to flood the district from May to September. The Democratic presidential primary had given us amazing data. We knew not just which towns would vote for us, but which specific precincts. We would be very competitive. Engineers are not optimists by nature, but judging from the data, I felt confident in our chances.

And then coronavirus hit.

Suddenly, new questions began to keep me up at night. How would I feel if someone on my team caught COVID-19 executing our plan? How would I feel if someone on my team died? How would I feel if someone died going to vote for me?

This is not a theoretical question, we are at war with a pandemic, and life and death matters are at stake.

At the end of her first run for office in 2018 she tweeted: “I’ve said this in interviews before, but my biggest mistake early on was NOT HIRING EXPERIENCED PEOPLE at the beginning. I thought I could do it like a startup, and we could learn as we went. By the time I realized that was a failing strategy, it was too late.”

She expanded on that in her latest statement, saying:

The biggest lesson I learned in 2018 is you cannot win a congressional election with digital alone. We tried this in 2018, doing amazingly well for a first time candidate and getting almost half the votes we needed to win. But, a lot of people are simply not reachable through ads, as Mike Bloomberg can attest to. When you hold digital events, the people that show up tend to already support you. The other half of my win number would have to come from canvassing and local events. That is not possible to pursue in an ethical way.

The other factor is what voting will look like in September. I dearly hope our legislature will do the right thing and move to an all mail-in ballot system, mailing one to every registered voter’s home. But the truth is, the best thing for our democracy would seriously disadvantage my campaign. An all-absentee ballot race would favor the incumbent with higher in-district name recognition.

Wu concluded, “I’m not sure what’s next for me. I’ll be taking time to mourn and find my balance. I’ll let all of you know when I figure it out.”

5 thoughts on “Brianna Wu Ends 2020 Candidacy

  1. I don’t think much of Lynch, but I wonder whether Wu has yet figured out what district she’s running in, given statements like The biggest lesson I learned in 2018 is you cannot win a congressional election with digital alone. I suspect many districts are be winnable with digital, but that even with the suburbs that connect her to the district’s heart she’s running in the most conservative district in Massachusetts (now that the First has been degerrymandered). I don’t know whether even an army on the ground would help; to traditional Southie she’s always going to look like one of the suburbanites who they saw as insisting on “breaking” “their” schools by busing while insulated by Boston’s tight boundaries. (As Lis noted recently, Boston suburbs started refusing to be absorbed some time ago, with the result that an unusually large fraction of metro Boston — 3/4 or more — lives outside Boston proper.) It would be particularly ironic if she were to win in 2022 because of Southie becoming gentrified enough to tip (despite the mayor’s best efforts to prevent long-time residents from being forced out or overwhelmed) — or maybe she’ll wind up in a massively different district after the census-driven reapportionment. I wish her well; it’s possible her energy will get her somewhere, although it might be instructive if she got some experience at a lower level (as IIRC her opponent did).

  2. I like Brianna, and I think she would have worked very hard for the people of Massachusetts. This is my district, and I donated to her campaign and signed for her to be on the ballot. But this is an old and conservative district, and right now it is very difficult for people to get out and about. I would love to see her working on the local or state level and get more experience working in collaboration with others in politics. There are some really exciting people working on the state level, and it is a good way for the people of the district to get to know her.

    I’m sure she will find her way forward.

  3. @Beth: good point on collaboration — I was thinking inside the box wrt getting experience in a lower-level office, but any experience that makes connections would probably help learning. I wonder whether there would be too much downside to her volunteering to a local office of the neighboring representative (Ayanna Presley).

  4. While I’m not privy to Brianna Wu’s thinking, the circumstances of Gamergate had elevated her to a recognized figure among national media before the 2016 election, perhaps compensating in the public mind for political experience, and it was not unrealistic if she hoped to ride the rising tide that brought other women into Congress. Although from the outside, running against an incumbent Democrat could only make that harder.

  5. My UUSWAG is that she was not nearly as recognized outside of various fandoms; I’m not sure how many mundanes saw “gamer” and didn’t immediately turn the page, and most of the coverage I saw was not in general media. But I have no reliable overall feel for how widely she was seen. The abovementioned neighbor did manage to primary a long-time incumbent — but his district had changed to be the only majority-minority one in MA (giving a Black candidate an edge) and she was running while chair of the Boston city council (which is elected in odd years, so she wasn’t even risking her current position), while Wu’s district is quite white — for now; I don’t even know whether MA will lose a representative, and nobody has been talking about how the districts would be reconfigured if we do, so 2022 will be … interesting.

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