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Politics

Former presidential contender Yang enters New York mayor race

Champion of universal income seeks 'second-hardest job in world'

Former U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang speaks at an event announcing his candidacy for New York City Mayor in upper Manhattan in New York City.   © Reuters

NEW YORK -- Andrew Yang will run for mayor of New York in the upcoming election, the former Democratic presidential candidate said, making universal basic income a top issue just as he did when he created a buzz on the national stage.

"The inhumane economy that we have all been struggling to survive in has become more punishing during the pandemic... And New York City has become the front line of our nation's struggles," Yang said during a livestream on Twitter to announce his candidacy Wednesday night, which was also the day he turned 46.

"We need bold ideas and a fresh approach to revive our city. We need to look forward and adapt to the economic challenges of today and the future. We also need a city government focused on competence and delivering for our people everyday," he said.

Often described as the second-hardest job in the world after the president, the mayor of the nation's largest city and its financial and media capital is one of the highest-profile jobs in American politics. Donald Trump advisor Rudy Giuliani and former presidential candidate and media magnate Michael Bloomberg are just two of the most recent examples to serve.

But the city has been hit especially hard by the coronavirus pandemic, laying waste to its once thriving tourist, entertainment and business sectors, and the next mayor will face a slew of daunting challenges.

Yang put economic recovery front and center in his speech. He said he wants to make the city's economy function for working people and small business owners, many of whom have lost their livelihoods during the pandemic. Yang said he will launch a basic income program in the Big Apple to combat poverty and homelessness in the city.

Yang mentioned reforming the New York Police Department, fixing the subway system, public education, broadband access, and most importantly, fighting COVID-19, as the pillars of his campaign. 

He also said he wants to bring "TikTok Hype Houses" to New York, referring to spaces where young artists could collaborate.

The tech entrepreneur became known in the political world when he ran for the president last year. Yang garnered a notable size of supporters, especially tech-savvy young people, dubbed the "Yang Gang." Supporters were drawn to his promise of a $1,000-per-month universal basic income program for every American and forward-thinking policies, such as charging tech companies for the personal data they collect from users.

Born into an immigrant family from Taiwan, Yang said living in New York was a realization of his parents' American dream. Yang also mentioned that his wife, Evelyn Yang, grew up in Flushing, Queens, where many small business owners are struggling during the pandemic.

Having been criticized for not being very involved in New York's political scene, Yang recalled during his speech that he moved to the city in 1996, when he felt like he was "joining the center of the world" and that New York is a "symbol" of what America is to many people.

"We're still that city, New York!" Yang said to his supporters attending the rally, vowing swift recovery.

Many have filed paperwork to enter the New York mayoral race. Yang has not held any elected office, but he outperformed current New York Mayor Bill de Blasio during the Democratic primaries in last year's presidential race. De Blasio will reach his term limit as mayor this year, forcing him to leave office.

Yang's campaign for mayor came a week after Democrats won the two Senate seats in Georgia. Yang had moved to Georgia after Joe Biden won the presidential election to mobilize voters in the Southern state for the blue party. 

Although he has won some affection from the Democrats with his upbeat persona and forward-thinking, on top of his involvement in the Georgia Senate race, it remains unclear if he could win the support of the party leaders. It has often been reported that the Asian American vote made a difference for Biden in flipping Georgia, and it could have played a roll in Senate runoff. Yang has been mobilizing voters, especially Asian American communities, to vote for Democrats. 

When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi mentioned the runoff during her speech after the Capitol riots last week, she thanked many Democrats who contributed to the victory in Georgia, but did not mention Yang, who stumped for Rafael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, the eventual winners who gave Democrats control of the Senate.

So far, U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres, a Democrat from New York, has endorsed Yang for mayor and will serve as the campaign co-chair.

Yang's campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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