YangGangAgain? – Betting on the next NYC Mayor


Sadiq Khan is on his way to victory in the late elections in London, but it’s all about playing across the pond. Bill de Blasio has a fixed term and the Democrats have 5 months to elect his replacement (Republicans generally have little chance in their primary election). There are 38 candidates who signed up and the front runner is both the placeholder and the only one you might have heard of …

Andrew Yang (2/1 at Ladbrokes) would have finished 9th in the presidential primaries, but he would have won the Most Improved Profile award. Totally unknown two years ago, his millennial approach to politics earned him a mountain of positive press and a legion of deeply enthusiastic online fans. He leads in the first two surveys – but with 15-20% in a very distributed area.

As in his presidential election, Yang fits neither left nor center / right of the party. He’s pushing his Universal Basic Income policy again, but UBI, combined with its Silicon Valley Libertarian vibe, has won an eclectic mix of recommendations from Richie Torres (a left-wing congressman, until recently a fairly prominent councilor) and Anthony ‘The Mooch ‘Scaramucci (Trump’s shortest press officer).

More traditional candidates are Eric Adams (4/1), the Borough President of Brooklyn, representing the centrist wing, and Scott Stringer (4/1), the Comptroller (similar to the City Chancellor of the State Treasury), who holds endorsements and political positions of the progressive wing. Unlike Yang, both have significant New York political experience – and should be the front runners by the time Yang entered the race.

Other main candidates are Maya Wiley (10/1), an aide to Bill de Blasio, who is a candidate for continuity, and Kathryn Garcia (16/1), who headed various city agencies. In a city that was once ruled by billionaire Michael Bloomberg, Raymond McGuire (4/1) fills in the “Self-Financing Businessman” space on the ballot – although he has not yet proven that there are voters who support the money that can bring his campaign to bear.

The key question is whether Yang can reach traditional factional and racial voting blocs and get support from everywhere, or whether he is a weak front runner who is empowered by name recognition. His voting head start is a good sign, even if it is a very divided field, but I worry that his lack of local political ties or experience makes him vulnerable to the “true New Yorkers versus outsiders” message. And as the campaigns progressed, I suspect his media profile advantage will diminish as the locals get to know each other better.

In a way, Yang is not only unusual, but also a bad fit with New York politics. As a city that calls itself “the greatest city in the world,” New York tends to vote for people who share the same worldview. Yang has no records in city government and has already been ridiculed for moving out of New York City during the pandemic instead of staying in the five boroughs and for recording a campaign video about bodegas in a store that (Twitter responses clearly no real New Yorker would ever call a real bodega. The latter may seem particularly trivial, but these missteps are the opposite of Yang’s easy-going “dude who gets it” persona that he relies heavily on. Perhaps the media coverage has not been the blessing of this campaign as it ran for president.

The fact that AV is used for the first time adds extra flavor to the primary product. Hence, a winner has to build a broad base. This could work in Yang’s favor and against the faction candidates, but if the YangGang’s passion puts off the general public, it could undermine its chances.

Yang has at least as good a chance as anyone else. But I think it’s wrong for him to be pretty strong front runner at this point. Its lead has not yet been proven to be permanent, nor has it proven effective in combating the attacks a front runner will face. With so much to do ahead of the area code, we could be anywhere in 5 weeks, let alone 5 months (just look at how volatile the 2013 area code was) and a big name might even still be in the running. Yang should be around 4/1 with the other main options – and I put him on Betfair accordingly.

Pip Moss

Pip Moss writes about political betting as a quincel. You can follow him on Twitter at @PipsFunFacts

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