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Brianna Wu ends bid to unseat Rep. Stephen Lynch, citing coronavirus

Brianna Wu canvassed for votes in her 2018 bid for the Eighth District congressional seat.Jessica Rinaldi

A primary challenger to US Representative Stephen F. Lynch suspended her congressional bid Tuesday, saying the coronavirus pandemic has made campaigning nearly impossible.

Brianna Wu, 42, a video game developer known for speaking out against misogyny in that industry, said she has been haunted by concerns that a member of her staff or a voter could become infected or even die because of their support for her campaign.

“I’ve never been shy about picking fights that are hard to win,” Wu said in a statement. “But, it’s one thing to risk myself. I cannot ethically risk others. You cannot turn your ethics off on Monday and flick them back on Tuesday.”


Wu said she had gathered enough signatures to get on the Democratic primary ballot for the Eighth District seat and had assembled “a killer field operation” for the election. But the pandemic scuttled plans for an aggressive ground game, and relying solely on digital campaigning wasn’t realistic because “a lot of people are simply not reachable through ads, as Mike Bloomberg can attest to,” Wu said.

Wu hopes the state will shift to mail-in ballots for the state’s Sept. 1 primary, she said, but believes such a move would give an even greater advantage to an incumbent with high name recognition — like Lynch.

“When you run for office your biggest fear is, ‘What if no one believes in me?’ ” Wu said to her supporters. “You believed in me from the beginning. You donated money. You donated time. You cheerlead me on, and you never left me wanting for help. I can’t help but feel I’m letting all of you down. And yet, this is just not the kind of problem you can cowgirl your way through.”

Wu previously sought the congressional seat in 2018 but was easily defeated by Lynch, who has served in Congress since 2001. He took 71 percent of the vote in that primary; Wu received 23 percent, according to state election records.


Lynch still faces two Democratic challengers. Dr. Robbie Goldstein, a Massachusetts General Hospital physician, was one of three candidates who brought a successful lawsuit earlier this month to reduce by half the number of signatures necessary appear on the primary ballot. Dr. Mohammad Dar, a physician from Jamaica Plain, has also formed a campaign committee for the Eighth District seat.

Wu is at least the second Massachusetts congressional candidate to drop her challenge to an incumbent in advance of the primary. Lisa Peterson, a former Salem city councilor who was challenging Representative Seth Moulton for the Sixth District seat, announced that she was leaving the race Nov. 1.

Peterson, writing months before the coronavirus pandemic emerged, said she was dropping out because it was best for her family, public interest in a competitive race had subsided, and she believed she could have a greater impact by fighting for causes she believes in “through a different format.”

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.