“Am I doing enough?”

This was the question former New York City mayoral candidate Maya Wiley asked herself before she decided to run for office in 2021. Wiley visited Northwestern College Democrats virtually on Feb. 23 to speak to students about her mayoral campaign and answer questions about the state of political issues on the national level.

“I was not someone who ever thought I’d run for office,” Wiley explained.

Wiley decided to run for mayor of New York City in the wake of Donald Trump’s election in 2016. Like many others who chose to run for public office following Trump’s win, it was her first time running a major political campaign. Wiley had a diverse range of career experiences prior to running for mayor. She had previously worked as a civil rights attorney for the ACLU and NAACP, contributed to MSNBC as a legal expert and served as counsel to former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Wiley’s mayoral platform centered around police reform, housing affordability, economic equity, and universal health coverage.

College Democrats organized the event with Wiley as part of their continued effort to bring political speakers to campus.

“I think that Maya Wiley was a known name and a progressive champion, which is something that we’ve been trying to bring in for a long time,” junior and College Democrats Public Relations Director Ben Chasen said. “We were eager to bring someone like Maya who has stood up so boldly, courageously and passionately for a number of progressive values.”

Wiley finished third in New York’s rank-choice voting system, but remains active in the world of politics and public policy. Though her campaign was ultimately unsuccessful, she reflected fondly on her experience.

“It was nothing short of empowering,” she said. To Wiley, winning was not what mattered most; rather, “running right” was.

During her discussion with students, Wiley answered questions about the banning of books and the restrictions on teaching subjects related to race in schools, housing equity and the homelessness crisis in New York City, the state of the two party system, and how the relationship between local and federal government has changed since the Trump administration. She addressed the need for Democrats to not shy away from difficult issues and instead face them head on, explaining to voters what outcomes their policies will bring about if they are elected. Wiley argued that a recent failure to communicate the specific benefits of policies has led to Democratic losses in battleground states.

At the end of the conversation, Wiley was asked about her plans for the future. In response, Wiley offered students wisdom she has used to guide herself through her career.

“Just follow your passion,” she said. “I always knew what I wanted to accomplish in terms of mission, and I was always willing to take any job that would further that.”

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