Former presidential candidate and tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang holds a comfortable lead over his rivals for the Democratic nomination for mayor of New York City. Yang, who jumped to prominence after his long-shot candidacy for President last year, received 32% of support within Democratic voters according to a WPIX/TV-NewsNation-Emerson College poll conducted from March 4-6.
Yang leads a packed field of democratic hopefuls with the closest candidate, Brooklyn Borough president Eric Adams, at a distant second with 19%. The rest of candidates in the race have less than 10% support among the survey of registered voters. Nevertheless, Yang should not consider this race to be a done deal, at least 17% of voters remain undecided and the NYC democratic primary is still months away.
Furthermore, the new ranked-choice system for the primary election might complicate things for the aspiring mayor. In this system, which was approved in a 2017 referendum, voters will have to rank their choices in the ballot in order of preference, if your candidate does not win the election then your second-ranked candidate would get your vote, this process would be repeated until a single candidate has won more than 50% of the vote.
Yang leads the field on first-choice vote intention, however, only 9% would consider him as their second choice. Another important factor that the Yang campaign needs to take into account is that these early positive numbers might be caused due to his relatively high name recognition, which could leave open the possibility of a tighter race once voters hear more about the other candidates in the ballot.
New York City is a remarkably Democratic area, with Manhattan giving Biden a 86.7% share of the vote in the 2020 election, while the other boroughs (Brooklyn, Queens, and Bronx) also voted heavily in favor of the Democrats. Even if NYC has had Republican mayors before (Giuliani and Bloomberg) it is really difficult to see a GOP candidate winning the most important mayorship in the country in the hyperpolarized political atmosphere of 2021.
Fresh face or green boy?
Yang is an interesting political figure. He is not a traditional politician as he has not held public office before, his previous history was that of a tech entrepreneur, and he was relatively unknown to the public until he ran his underdog campaign for president in 2020. Nevertheless, since then he has gained some significant notoriety within the American political arena as he has amassed a sizable following in social media (2 million in Twitter), has a relatively net positive image among voters (according to YouGov), and has managed to raise a decent amount of cash for his mayoral campaign for NYC even if he was not a huge part of NY local politics until last year.
Well known for his support for progressive policies, he most famously proposed an universal basic income for all Americans during the 2020 presidential race, making him the only candidate in the Democratic field to do that at the time. That won him a lot of noterierity at the time, which he managed to transform into a personal political brand, however it remains unknown if Yang will be able to harness his potential and transform it into an electoral victory.
His campaign has faced some blunders and criticisms during his first weeks of the campaign, with him being criticized from moving out of New York during the pandemic, and with some allegations of sexism within his campaign team being reported to the media. However, his position in the polls appear to remain strong, and his status as outsider and non traditional politician might help him in a city where the current mayor, Bill De Blasio, is heavily unpopular.
New York’s Gracie Mansion (the official residence of the mayor) is a treasured prize for many politicians who want to further their careers in the national stage. After all, you get to be the most important public official of the most famous city in the world, a place that host some of the most important newspapers of the country, and that is the financial center of the most powerful economy in the world. Being mayor of New York gives you a platform to build a political brand of national proportions and Andre Yang surely knows it.
However, being mayor does not ensures you success. After all, the three last politicians (Giuliani, Bloomberg, and De Blasio) who held the title and then went to pursue a presidential nomination suffered humiliating defeats.
Regardless of the political plans that Yang has in mind, it is clear that if he wants to retain some type of political viability in the future he needs to win this election or face the prospects of political death. Only time will tell if he would become the new fresh face of the Democratic Party or if he would be remembered as another “also-ran”.