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OpinionColumnistsMark Chiusano

On Andrew Yang, the last Democratic 2020 New Yorker

Andrew Yang's MATH is working as the last

Andrew Yang's MATH is working as the last New Yorker on the 2020 Democratic debate stage.  Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images/Robyn Beck

With the exit of Mayor Bill de Blasio and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand from the 2020 race, businessman Andrew Yang is now the only New Yorker seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.

The 44-year-old lives in Manhattan, according to voting records, along with his wife and two sons. But he can more recently be found on the campaign trail and debate stage, speaking about the threat of automation and his idea to give $1,000 a month to every American adult aged 18-64.

Yang was born in Schenectady to Taiwanese immigrant parents. His ties to downstate include Columbia Law School and a leadership tour at a test-prep company in Manhattan bought by Kaplan in 2009.

In 2011, he started an NYC-based nonprofit, Venture for America, placing fellows in young companies in cities that aren’t necessarily typical destinations for college graduates.

He is open about being new to politics, which is reflected in his voting history. He did not vote in the 2016 presidential primary, the hot 2012 and 2000 general and primary elections, or midterm elections in 2010, 2006, or 2002, according to recent New York City Board of Elections records obtained by amExpress. (He has told The Washington Post that he would’ve gone for Sen. Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primary.)

Some of his policy positions are unorthodox, such as a new domestic infrastructure force called the “Legion of Builders and Destroyers” whose head would “have the ability to overrule local regulations and ordinances to ensure that projects are started and completed promptly and effectively.”  

But his own 2020 bid has outlasted more experienced rivals, garnering multiple percentage points in polls.

He has gained traction through podcasts — particularly a career-changing spot on Joe Rogan’s show — and cultivated a fervent “Yang gang” online. He has spent more than $1.3 million on Facebook ads, more than former Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s digital-savvy presidential campaign (though less than the frontrunners). One ad notes cheekily, “It’s all fun and games until Yang passes you in the polls.”

What’s next for the New Yorker? This weekend, new Saturday Night Live cast member Bowen Yang gave him the spoof treatment.

A CNN profile noted the the regularly positive reception of his stump speech with devoted crowds: “Any mention of ‘MATH’ — a pseudo rallying cry for the Yang faithful that means ‘Make America Think Harder’ — elicits prolonged chants. When Yang mentions using PowerPoint during his hypothetical State of the Union, the audience chants the name of the Microsoft software.”

He’s perceived serious enough by the National Republican Congressional Committee to be included in Facebook attack ads, and already has qualified for the next Democratic debate.  

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