Game developer Brianna Wu lost her bid for Congress yesterday and in a series of tweets acknowledged shortcomings of her campaign that she said she’d fix for a new bid for office in 2020.
“Our campaign raised almost $200,000,” she noted in Twitter shortly after polls closed. “And truth be told, I did not put nearly the amount of work into this that I should have.”
Wu was always a longshot, so her loss to eight-term Congressman Stephen Lynch in a try for Massachusetts’ Eighth District was not a surprise, nor were some of her admitted struggles.
Last week, Kotaku shadowed Wu and her husband Frank as they canvassed the neighborhoods near Dedham, Massachusetts. Wu spoke passionately about being motivated to push the Democratic party to the left, but her two-person door-to-door team came off as a practice round. The sales pitch for her candidacy, when delivered face-to-face on someone’s porch, didn’t always sound clear or fully formed, and Wu seemed to be spending as much time on spreadsheet data as working the phones.
Lynch won the election with 71% of the vote to Wu’s 23%. Christopher Voehl, a veteran of the Air Force who also ran, received the remaining 6%.
Wu rose to prominence in the gaming scene in the fall of 2014 after clashing with the GamerGate outrage movement. Two years later, she announced she was pivoting to politics in a Facebook post the December after Donald Trump won the 2016 election. In the ensuing year she tried to appeal to the Bernie Sanders-wing of the party by focusing on issues like income inequality and Medicare for All, though her message has not always been consistent. With me, and often online, she’s called for socialized medicine, but the week before the election she hedged when speaking to The Patriot Ledger, saying, “Medicare for all could be an effective solution, but it would be scarily expensive, so I think we need a solution that is multi-factorial,”
At least this time around, the District she ran in, which includes some of Boston but also many of the less liberal suburbs to the South, ended up not going for it, at least this time.
In her Tweets last night she said her “biggest mistake early on was NOT HIRING EXPERIENCED PEOPLE at the beginning” (her emphasis).
Federal Election Commission records showed Wu’s campaign made payments to seven different people for their work during the campaign. On the day I spent shadowing her campaign, there were no other staffers around and Wu declined to discuss their current or former roles in the campaign, citing the potential for harassment if it was publicized they were working on her campaign.
“For 2020, I’m going to spend more time on this and hire a much larger team,” Wu said on Twitter. In an email to Kotaku, she elaborated. “Next time around, I need to do more call time and fundraisers, and spend less time doing graphic design, analytics and other things I enjoy far more.”
One thing Wu does think translated into her campaign winning 17,000 votes in the primary was her willingness to speak her mind. “I think I found a way to migrate my rebel indie developer persona to politics,” she wrote in another tweet. “This was very difficult. It’s hard for any woman to be authentic in the public eye - but I hope the real me still comes through.”
Regardless of what worked or didn’t work, Wu said she’s set on running again. “Ultimately, this was my campaign,” she wrote in her final tweet on the matter. “The mistakes are mine, and I own that. We will course correct for 2020.”
Wu is a political novice and someone whose zeal for controversy has led some to react to her run for political office not with enthusiasm but with eyerolls. But she consistently expressed the confidence that she could be a contender and, before recognizing she’d lose, had been looking to add her name to the small but growing list of upsets that has rocked the Democratic party by women running to the party’s left. That’s what Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pulled off in June in defeating high ranking Congressman Joe Crowley who had previously represented constituents in New York City for nearly two decades. When I watched her canvas, she routinely introduced herself as “part of the army of women running for Congress.”
There was a victor like that last night, but it wasn’t Wu. Ayanna Pressley managed to defeat incumbent Michael Capuano in Massachusetts’ Seventh District, which includes parts of Boston and Cambridge, in part by criticizing Capuano’s support for legislation that would have made assaulting a police officer a Federal crime. In so doing, she is set to become the first black woman to represent the state in the House of Representatives.