‘But Maura, she’s different. She understands’: Healey garners support in Chinatown


Eli Curwin

Boston City Council President, Ed Flynn, Connecticut attorney general, William Tong and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu stand with Healey as she speaks to a crowd. Healey visited Chinatown Oct. 15 to canvass for her campaign.

Eli Curwin, news staff

This past Saturday was Emily Li-Nagy’s third birthday. While most toddlers enter their terrific threes blowing bubbles or finger painting, Emily spent her birthday walking around Chinatown with the Democratic candidate for governor of Massachusetts, Maura Healey.

Healey arrived at the Chinatown Gate alongside Mayor Michelle Wu and various other elected officials seeking the Asian American vote and encouraging people to head to the polls Nov. 8. 

“This is the time to really bring it all home,” Healey said. “We’ve got three weeks. We need people on the doors, we need the word out. Because we don’t want to be complacent. There is so much at stake for this election.” 

From 3-year-old Emily to 84-year-old Gilbert Ho, nearly 150 people weaved through the crowded Chinatown streets into boba shops and corner stores to advertise Healey and her bid for governor. 

“I like her because she stands up for people, all of them,” said Ho, a business analyst and community organizer. “There are many issues where she is down to earth, focusing on small folks like us.”

As attorney general, Healey led an effort to overhaul and strengthen Massachusetts’ hate crime laws and advocated for greater protections for the Asian American community, plagued with racially motivated violence and discrimination due to the spread of COVID-19.

Healey’s past of standing up for immigrants and the Chinatown community in particular has led to support from some long-time Asian American residents of Massachusetts.

“I am a first generation immigrant,” said Wan Wu, a former research scientist and 46-year resident of Massachusetts. “As more immigrants come into this country, I can sense though, some of the American Caucasian people are becoming more anti-immigrant. But Maura, she’s different. She understands. She is part of an immigrant family herself, and I like what she stands for.”

Healey has also worked with the New England Chinese American Alliance, an organization founded in 2020 to support Asian Americans during the pandemic and help combat anti-Asian sentiment. 

“[Healey] is working with us. She mentioned earlier in the debate that she has our back,” said Hua Wang, co-chair of New England Chinese American Alliance. “She has mentioned things about anti-Asian hate. It is a very tough atmosphere out there, there is a very dark cloud, so we are going to work together to lift that cloud.”

As the cohort of supporters made their way through Chinatown, Healey was often accompanied by Mayor Wu and Connecticut Attorney General William Tong. Wu was the first woman, person of color and Asian American to be elected mayor of Boston, and Tong was the first Asian American to be elected to the state level in Connecticut.

“I am so excited to be here with Attorney General Healey, but we are going to teach her a new word, ‘ 州长, Zhōuzhǎng’ which is governor of the state of Massachusetts,” said Tong. “She has taken on the most powerful forces in this country, big pharma, the opioid and addiction crisis, the big technology companies. Maura Healey is afraid of nothing.”

Healey’s actions and lawsuits have garnered support for the Democratic candidate throughout Chinatown, as several policies like small business protections and lowering prescription drug prices have directly impacted the lives of the people who reside there. Canvas attendees also said they have a “gut feeling about her” and that her charisma sets her apart from other politicians. 

“I was really taken by her zip and personality,” said 84-year-old retiree Bill Dougherty. “Politicians can be really embarrassing, but she is the real thing … My son works with addicts and she’s been very, very forceful in the prosecution of the Sacklers.”

Healey’s reputation as a fighter, someone unafraid to take on the “big guys,” from opioid manufacturers to Uber, has influenced some younger voters just entering the world of politics.

“I am supporting Maura because of her work here for Chinatown and her efforts for inclusivity, diversity and other efforts to make politics more accessible,” said Summer Chan, an 18-year-old Harvard student. “I am new to Boston and even newer to Chinatown and I can see … the amount of effort she has put into Chinatown.”

While 3-year-old Emily might not be able to see how a Healey governorship may impact her life, her mother, Helen Ji Li, does.

“As an Asian American woman, as a mom and family, we have experienced being the victims of microaggressions and bias. We have to have our voices heard,” Li said.