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For Walsh, Wu, the campaign trail looks close

Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu walked with her son Cass as she greeted people at the China Pearl Restaurant in February.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

They’re not on the campaign trail quite yet, but if you squint, you can see it.

In an afternoon news conference Tuesday amid questions about if and when he intends to announce his reelection campaign for mayor, Martin J. Walsh said he is focused on leading the city through the COVID pandemic and ticked off reassuring numbers showing declines in positive cases and the number of deaths.

“Right now I’m focused on running the city,” Walsh told reporters.

The news conference came a day after Walsh confirmed to The Boston Globe rumors that City Councilor Michelle Wu had called him Sunday to inform him that she intends to run in the 2021 election, effectively breaking news of her purported candidacy.


Wu, meanwhile, did not disclose her future plans Tuesday, though she appeared on the Urban Conversations section of the Notorious in the Morning radio show, on B87 FM. She said the city needs strong leadership, that there are still too many inequities in Boston’s neighborhoods, and that people should be asking themselves, “How can we make a difference to move our city forward?”

Separately, she did not address Walsh’s statement or speculation that she is running, though she did not deny it, either. Her spokeswoman Jessica Pierre has referred to Wu’s position that, “in this moment of hardship in our city, each one of us should be asking ourselves how we can make a difference in strengthening our communities and fighting for change that matches the scale and urgency of our current challenges.”

Meanwhile, Wu made light of the political brouhaha in a Twitter post, giving an exclusive to her 39,000 followers.

“I want you to hear it from me . . . ,” Wu teased, with a photo of her and her two young sons, eating ice cream. The intent was to leave the reader waiting on edge. But —


“Cass has now switched his fav flavor from strawberry to mint chocolate chip @No_1_icecreaman,” Wu wrote.

Ice cream stops? Sure sounds like campaign trail talk.

If she runs, Wu, 35, a native of Chicago, would likely be looking to do something that no one has been able to do in 70 years: Unseat an incumbent Boston mayor.

A graduate of Harvard Law School, she was first elected to the council in 2013, and went on to make history as the body’s first woman of color president. She’s gone on to ride the progressive political wave that has taken hold in the city, and has pushed the mayor on issues ranging from environmental reforms, to restructuring the city’s planning and development agency, to strategies to improve traffic congestion.

Walsh remains politically popular, however, and has kept intact a political machine with more than $5 million in campaign cash — dwarfing Wu’s $346,000 in cash in hand, as of the end of August, according to state records. Last month, Wu’s campaign spent $53,000, including $20,000 for campaign emails and digital ad buys, and $15,000 for campaign video production — fueling speculation about a potential run.

On Tuesday, Walsh, 53, also refused to disclose his own future political plans. A former state representative, he bested a dozen other challengers in the 2013 race for the open mayor’s seat, and then cruised to a second term in 2017, trouncing his challenger, then-City Councilor Tito Jackson by more than 30 points.


Walsh would only say Tuesday that, aside from his duties as mayor, his priority has been helping Joe Biden defeat President Trump, so that the city can have a partner in the White House over the next four years.

“We’re spending too much time talking about the lack of leadership” in Washington, D.C., he said.

And then he went on to talk about the work the city is doing to reopen schools, combat the COVID pandemic, and to address a recent surge in street violence.

“My job right now is focusing on being the mayor of Boston,” he said.

Milton J. Valencia can be reached at milton.valencia@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia and on Instagram @miltonvalencia617.