The 45-year-old tech entrepreneur amassed a loyal following in the Democratic primary and joined at least 35 other candidates who want to succeed the widely unpopular Mayor Bill de Blasio. Yang lives in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan. He’s never run for a city office, but his name recognition and fundraising power could propel him to the list of frontrunners.
The Democratic primary is in June. Before Yang’s entry into the race, many thought it would be a two-man fight between city comptroller Scott Stringer and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.
A Slingshot Strategies survey of 1,000 Democrats obtained by the New York Post from before the announcement found that Yang, if he joined the race, would lead the pack. Twenty percent of respondents listed Yang as their top choice, while 14% listed Adams and 11% named Stringer.
Yang dropped out of the presidential race in February. Joining the race as one of the least-known candidates, he shot up to the middle-tier in polls thanks to his "Freedom Dividend" – a universal basic income that would pay each adult American $1,000 per month – and his energetic, open-minded approach to campaigning.
He’s fired warnings at members of his own party for policing cultural issues.
"I would say, 'Hey! I'm running for president!' to a truck driver, retail worker, waitress in a diner. And they would say, 'What party?' And I'd say 'Democrat' and they would flinch like I said something really negative or I had just turned another color or something like that," Yang said in November.
"And there's something deeply wrong when working-class Americans have that response to a major party that theoretically is supposed to be fighting for them," he continued. "So you have to ask yourself, what has the Democratic Party been standing for in their minds? And in their minds, the Democratic Party, unfortunately, has taken on this role of the coastal urban elites who are more concerned about policing various cultural issues than improving their way of life that has been declining for years!"
The next New York City mayor, who takes office a year from January, is sure to be tasked with spurring economic development from pandemic fallout. Tens of thousands of New Yorkers have fled the city due to easier access to work-from-home, cramped living quarters to quarantine in, crime and massive unemployment rates from lengthy and repeated business shutdowns.