Andrew Yang’s NYC Exit Caps Tumble From Front-Runner to Also-Ran

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Andrew Yang was the first of 13 Democratic candidates to drop out of the New York City mayoral race, even though nine of his rivals fared far worse. The speedy exit punctuated the former presidential candidate’s remarkable fall from his early front-runner status.

“I’m conceding this race,” he said Tuesday night at his campaign’s party. “I’m a numbers guy. I’m someone who traffics in what happens in the numbers, and I am not going to be New York City mayor.”

With 96.6% of city scanners reported, Yang garnered 11.7% of the first-round of votes in the Democratic primary. Brooklyn Borough President and former New York police captain Eric Adams had 31.2%, followed by civil rights lawyer Maya Wiley with 22.2% and former city Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia with 19.5%.

The city won’t announce an official winner for weeks, as it contends with a new election system that had voters rank as many as five candidates in order of preference.

A tech entrepreneur raised in upstate New York, Yang had risen to the top of the pack in early polls thanks to the celebrity status he garnered during his failed 2020 presidential campaign. But he was criticized throughout the mayoral race for leaving New York City at the height of the pandemic. He made a number of gaffes, including not knowing subway routes in a city whose residents live and breathe mass transit.

Garcia Alliance

In the final days of the race, Yang sought to boost his chances by forming a strategic alliance with Garcia. The pair made a number of campaign stops together and he urged his supporters to rank her number two on their ballots. Garcia declined to reciprocate.

Yang, the 46-year-old son of Taiwanese immigrants, garnered celebrity status when he ran for president, with slogans like, “Make America Think Harder” -- MATH -- before dropping out in February 2020. He had already gained some national recognition running Venture for America, a nonprofit founded in 2011 that provided business training and job placement to college grads in startup.

Yang entered the mayoral race in January 2020, seeking to become the first Asian-American leader of the most populous U.S. city by portraying himself as a a non-ideological leader. He got contributions from 24,000 donors, the most for any mayoral campaign in New York City history, according to his campaign.

“I’m so proud of what he’s done,” New York Senator John Liu, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2013, said after Yang conceded. “I’m so honored to have been part of this campaign, and the results speak for themselves. But at the end of the day, even if a candidate is not winning, the campaign can be a truly winning one and that’s what Andrew Yang’s campaign was.”

Record Donors

Yang spent more than $8 million on the race, the majority of which was public funds from the city’s dollar-matching program. The political novice, though, committed several well-publicized gaffes that opponents said showed his unfamiliarity with the city.

Yang was criticized for not voting in any mayoral election between 2001 and 2017. He tweeted incorrectly that he was on an A train headed toward the Bronx, which is impossible. He proposed a casino for Governors Island, unaware that the development would be prohibited by federal law. His proposal to give $2,000 a year to the city’s 500,000 poorest residents drew skepticism and ridicule from opponents, who noted that amounts to about $5 a day.

Yang also drew criticism for leaving the city during the pandemic, staying at his second home in New Paltz, New York. Yang said he made the move to provide more space for his family, particularly his children who were getting schooled remotely. He said he spent a large portion of that time campaigning for Joe Biden’s presidential race and Democratic Senate candidates in Georgia.

Face to Face

Early on in the campaign, competitors criticized him for in-person campaigning when most of his rivals were sticking to Zoom meetings. He contracted Covid-19 in February and temporarily suspended the events.

Yet the face-to-face moments made him stand out. His campaign Twitter feed showed him interacting with essential workers, grocery-store clerks and small-business owners.

“He was doing it when no one else was doing it,” said political consultant William Cunningham. “ He presented an image to voters that was calm, optimistic and sounded forward-looking.”

During the campaign, Yang pushed strongly to expand the city’s charter school program, a position opposed by the United Federation of Teachers. He also drew scorn for comments he made in support of Israel amid clashes with Palestinians.

Earlier this month, Yang was criticized on social media and from Wiley for characterizing people with mental issues as violent.

”Yes, mentally ill people have rights, but you know who else have rights? We do: the people and families of the city,” Yang said during the final Democratic primary debate. “We have the right to walk the street and not fear for our safety because a mentally ill person is going to lash out at us.”

Yang, in his concession speech, said he and his wife would “find a way to contribute in public life here in New York City and beyond.”

“This has been an incredible journey, but I know that the journey is still just beginning,” he told supporters.

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