NEW YORK — Andrew Yang’s mayoral candidacy is getting a boost from a national organization targeting municipal races to boost Asian American and Pacific Islander involvement in politics.
The AAPI Victory Fund, a Washington, D.C.-based political action committee, is planning to endorse Yang at an event in Chinatown Wednesday afternoon. The group plans to host a fundraiser for Yang later this month and is considering an independent expenditure on his behalf, which would circumvent the strict spending limits of the city’s Campaign Finance Board.
The organization wants to rally Asian American New Yorkers to the polls on June 22, when Yang will be on the ballot in a hotly contested Democratic primary to replace outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio. He would be the first person of Asian descent to become mayor of the country’s largest city, and he is currently leading in the polls.
Varun Nikore, president of the AAPI Victory Fund, said he was motivated to get involved in local politics because of the rash of anti-Asian hate crimes taking place in New York City and across the country.
“It was really the murders in Atlanta and Indianapolis that cemented in us that we really needed more of an active role in public life to really show the community that we can be everywhere and that we actually have solutions to fix a lot of America’s problems,” Nikore said in an interview Tuesday.
Two mass shootings this year — at spas in Atlanta and a FedEx facility in Indianapolis — targeted people of Asian descent and a report recently released by California State University found a surge in hate crimes. The sharpest spike occurred in New York City, the report found.
The organization, which did not back Yang’s 2020 presidential run, is generally not focused on local matters and the endorsement is meant to “assist his campaign and give it more of a national profile,” Nikore said.
Yang has faced heat for what his opponents consider inadequate New York chops — a charge his supporters have said is rooted in bigotry. One of the larger critiques stemmed from his decision to leave the city for his second home in New Paltz, N.Y., when Covid-19 hit last year. The choice allowed his children more space during remote learning, but it has been a consistent point of criticism.
Yang is the third mayoral candidate the organization is endorsing this year as it branches out to local politics.
Nikore said he is hoping for an increased Asian American turnout in New York, similar to the spike in voter participation in the 2020 presidential race. And he was encouraged by the prospect of Yang running a national race again: “We certainly think he has a future as well, and that’s always in the back of your mind when you’re considering endorsements,” he said.
On Tuesday, Yang was endorsed by the Chang Le America Association, the Fujian Foundation in USA and the United Overseas Fujianese Association of America.
“The reality is that Asian American retail districts and neighborhoods like this one have been hit as hard as any other community by the coronavirus pandemic,” he said during the endorsement, also in Chinatown. “We should acknowledge that there’s been an increase in racism against Asian Americans and that includes folks being reluctant to come into areas like this one, to be able to shop and have fun with their families.”