Commentary on Political Economy

Wednesday 23 December 2020


Andrew Yang joins crowded race for New York mayor

Andrew Yang carved out a distinctive economic agenda during his Democratic primary campaign, pitching universal basic income as an answer to the threat he sees automation posing to many voters’ jobs © Getty Images

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Andrew Yang, the technology entrepreneur who campaigned for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination with a pledge to introduce a universal basic income, has joined the crowded race to succeed Bill de Blasio as mayor of New York City. 

Mr Yang, 45, gained national prominence, an animated online following known as the “Yang gang” and a reputation as a successful fundraiser with a primary campaign centred on the idea of giving every adult American a “freedom dividend” of $1,000 a month. 

He has remained in the public eye since dropping out of the presidential race in February, campaigning for a new economic stimulus package to include $2,000 cheques to individuals rather than the $600 which Congress agreed earlier this week. 

The New York City Campaign Finance Board on Wednesday confirmed Mr Yang had submitted the paperwork required to begin raising funds for a mayoral run. Term limits bar Mr de Blasio from running again.

Mr Yang made no public comment, however, and has said that he would make no decision on the mayoral race until after January’s Senate run-off elections in Georgia, where he has campaigned for both Democratic candidates.

The development comes after a December poll showed Mr Yang and Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams at the top of a list of early potential mayoral candidates. 

However, local media still see the race as being wide open, with other contenders including Scott Stringer, the city’s comptroller, and Kathryn Garcia, its former sanitation commissioner. Ray McGuire, the Citigroup banker who entered the race with a campaign video made by the film-maker Spike Lee, is seen as Wall Street’s favoured candidate.

The mayoral race will unfold next year against the backdrop of a reeling economy. The diverse, unequal and densely-packed city became the early centre of the Covid-19 crisis in the US and its response to the coronavirus was marked by tensions between Mr de Blasio and Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York State. 

The pandemic has closed restaurants, imperilled cultural institutions and prompted some of New York’s wealthiest residents to leave. Mr Cuomo’s office estimates that the city faces a $9bn revenue shortfall over the next two years. 

That has drawn many of the city’s business leaders into the race, as they look to coalesce behind a figure they hope will be more business-friendly than Mr de Blasio, who many see as a hostile contrast to his predecessor, Mike Bloomberg, who made his fortune selling data terminals to Wall Street. 

The Partnership for New York City, a leading local business lobby group, said in its latest dashboard of economic indicators that the city’s employment had plunged 15.2 per cent between the third quarters of 2019 and 2020. At the same time, the city’s spending rose 4.6 per cent and its tax revenue fell 2.5 per cent. 

Mr Yang, an Asian-American, grew up in Westchester county, just outside New York, and worked in the city as a lawyer before founding start-ups in philanthropy and education.

He carved out a distinctive economic agenda during his primary campaign, pitching universal basic income as an answer to the threat he sees automation posing to many voters’ jobs. 

He finished fifth in this year’s New York Democratic primary, receiving just 1.7 per cent of the votes in a June poll, after he and most other rivals to Joe Biden had suspended their campaigns.

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