Andrew Yang, the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate running for mayor of New York City, scored the endorsement of a national political action committee Wednesday.
The AAPI Victory Fund, a PAC that mobilizes Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders for Democratic candidates, said it plans to raise money for Yang's campaign and deploy thousands of volunteers to canvass, which could give the campaign a boost after recent stumbles.
Yang's national profile has made him a front-runner in a crowded mayoral field, which could give the city's AAPI population — an estimated 15 percent of residents — representation at the highest level of City Hall for the first time. The endorsement comes at the onset of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and during a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes.
"But the backdrop, of course, is that you're seeing record levels of political engagement that you've not really seen before from the Asian American community," Varun Nikore, who heads the fund, said in a phone interview. "And the question is: Does that political engagement translate to Andrew Yang? I think he still has to do some more work in terms of outreach. Obviously, there's time, but that's something that we hope to lend to him."
Voter turnout among the AAPI community skyrocketed more than among any other racial demographic group in the presidential election, according to a study conducted by the fund. Nikore said that over the past four years, the AAPI community has been the fastest-growing voting bloc and that it is time to see it "at all levels of government." The group has endorsed two other Asian Americans running for mayor in big cities — Aftab Pureval, an Indian American running for mayor of Cincinnati, and Michelle Wu, a Taiwanese American City Council member running for mayor of Boston.
"For too long, AAPIs have been locked out of the process and not taken seriously as candidates. Andrew has already changed that," Nikore said. "This is bigger than politics. This is about having a seat at the table and supporting candidates who know their roots and always have our backs."
Yang is widely seen as the front-runner in the New York City field. A poll last month found that 22 percent of likely Democratic voters supported him. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a moderate Democrat, was 9 points back in second place, with 13 percent support. The race was also upended last week by an allegation of sexual abuse and harassment against the leading progressive candidate, Scott Stringer, the city's comptroller. He has denied the allegation.
Yang's campaign has had awkward setbacks, including losing the endorsement of a prominent New York City LGBTQ political group last month after he offended members with his remarks. In addition, more than 700 Asian Americans in New York City have signed a petition and launched a website opposing his campaign, Asian and Pacific Islander New Yorkers Against Andrew Yang, arguing that "representation alone is simply not enough."
In a statement accepting the fund's endorsement, Yang vowed to address the unique issues facing Asian Americans with anti-poverty programs, support for small businesses and emphasis on the city's recovery.
"As Asian Americans across the country continue to grapple with economic hardship, and a staggering rise in hate crimes, there has never been a more critical time for Asian Americans to take a seat at the table," Yang said.