Boston mayoral candidate Michelle Wu is counting on the "vital" support of the city's Latino communities to help propel her to victories in the upcoming September primary and November general elections.
The daughter of immigrants from Taiwan, Wu - who speaks Spanish fluently - has served on Boston's City Council since 2013. A former restaurant owner and graduate of Harvard Law School, Wu also previously worked in Boston City Hall for Mayor Thomas Menino and was constituency director for Elizabeth Warren's successful 2012 Senate campaign.
She now hopes to win the primary election scheduled for September, before headed to mayoral race on November 2. When she launched her race, she did so in English, Mandarin and Spanish-language videos.
Wu's candidacy comes as Boston's Latino population continues to grow, now comprising just over 130,000 people - or 16% of all Latinos in the state of Massachusetts. By 2035, the figure is expected to rise to more than 1.15 million, representing 15.3% of the state's population.
On August 18, more than one hundred Latino community leaders publicly endorsed Wu, from fields ranging from small business owners and radio show hosts to a retired judge, immigration advocates and military veterans.
Jovita Fontanez, the first Latina to serve as head of the Boston Election Commission and the first Hispanic woman elected to the Electoral College of Massachusetts, said that Wu has been a "respectful and efficient city councilor-at-large"
"As the daughter of immigrants, she understands what it feels like to not be heard and be neglected by our government," she said. "I trust that she will continue to uplift the voices of the marginalized people."
"I support Michelle Wu because she is the candidate who most identifies with the Latino community, due to the fact that she is the daughter of immigrants," said Nilson âJunior' Pepen, a popular local sports broadcaster. "In these difficult times we are living, Michelle has the plan and the desire to improve education, safety and generate jobs to close the racial wealth gap that exists, while also supporting small businesses."
In an interview with LPO, Wu said that it was "huge" for her campaign to earn the support of prominent Latinos in the increasingly diverse city.
"I have long standing relationships with many members of this group, dating back to when I was first in law school and working with Puerto Rican veterans," she said. "There are many leaders in this group of amazing supporters that wear many hats, running organizations and really trying to work hard to make sure that not only is there community represented, but that the door is wide open for next generation interested."
If her mayoral bid is successful, Wu said that one of her first priorities would be in addressing the city's recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, which she said disproportionally impacted minority communities - including Latinos - across the city.
"We must take every action to end the pandemic, and that means closing gaps in vaccinations across our communities and meeting people where they're at," she added. "The neighborhoods and communities that were able to close those gaps in a larger way were those were community members were very involved in outreach."
"As the Delta variant surges, we need leadership from all levels of government," Wu added. "As the level closest to the people, city government is uniquely able to build trust in the vaccine and take the steps to meet people where they're at and close gaps in getting this [the vaccine] out there."
While Wu acknowledged that Boston has become increasingly diverse over the last several years, she added that she hopes to address "chronic underinvestment" and structural racism in many minority-dominated areas of the city.
"Zip codes are still so correlated with inequities in healthcare access, in transportation access, in housing stability, and the burdens and impacts of this pandemic," she said. "What that means is that we need, in addition to representation, are clear policies that will deliver change," she said. "City government must be a platform for change. That is urgent and intersectional."
Across Massachusetts, the number of registered Latino voters in the state doubled, from 134,000 in 2010 to 271,000 in 2020 - making Latinos the second largest voting population of all racial and ethnic subgroups in Massachusetts.
There are currently 68 Latino officials holding 69 seats in local elected bodies and in the state legislature - a 43.8% increase in representation, according to research from the University of Massachusetts.
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