First, there was the bodega tweet that launched a thousand discourses. It was followed a few weeks later by the revelation that Andrew Yang is a dog person. Then there was a tweet that spring was just around the corner, quickly followed by a tweet that simply announced it was March 1.
Andrew Yang has lived in New York City for 25 years, going back to when he started law school at Columbia University, but as he tries to win over voters for his NYC mayoral campaign, he’s really trying to sell it. And while his Twitter account appears to be trying to burnish his big-city credentials, his posts are bewildering.
The explanation is Yang himself, according to co-campaign manager Chris Coffey. “Andrew Yang tweets for Andrew Yang,” Coffey told VICE News Tuesday.
In some instances, such as a policy rollout or endorsement, Coffey said, the campaign will collaborate on what Yang’s Twitter account should post. But more often than not, Yang is in charge, such as Monday’s ruminations on the subway. “I love going express from 59th to 125th,” Yang tweeted.
Prior to that, Yang—a tech entrepreneur-turned-politician-turned-CNN pundit—had posted that he was “on the A train Bronx bound.” Technically, this tweet was a comma away from being true. Andrew Yang could be “Bronx-bound” on the A train, but the train itself isn’t. You’d need to transfer to the B or the D to get to the Bronx.
Nonetheless, Yang’s tweet drew mockery from the press and other Twitter users. “Someone get Andrew Yang a subway map,” the New York Daily News roasted.
“The A train doesn’t go to the Bronx,” Jeffrey LeFrancois, the executive director of the Meatpacking Business Improvement District in Manhattan, tweeted at Yang. “Please step aside to speed the ride for other candidates who get and know NYC already. Thanks!”
It’s almost as if Yang were intentionally doing a bit of online comedy. But according to Coffey, the tweets were earnest thoughts from Yang himself.
“It’s a fun express shot. I like doing it too, on the A train (for me),” Coffey said in a text message. “I don’t understand the weirdness there.”
“Andrew gets around by taking subways and buses,” Coffey said in reference to the A train tweet, noting that last week Yang helped break up a fight on the Staten Island Ferry. “How do ‘authentic’ New Yorkers get around? They get around by subway or bus.”
The Yang campaign has sought to dispel the narrative that he’s not a real New Yorker since the beginning of the campaign. Salon, for example, ran a piece last month about a widely-derided Yang tweet about Shake Shack with the headline: “Andrew Yang fails to show his authentic ‘New Yorker-ness’ in a revealing tweet about Shake Shack.”
It’s not just because of his tweets, either. Shortly after entering the race, Yang came under fire for admitting that he and his family had spent more time in their second home, in New Paltz, than in New York City during the pandemic.
“We live in a two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan,” Yang told the New York Times in January. “And so, like, can you imagine trying to have two kids on virtual school in a two-bedroom apartment, and then trying to do work yourself?”
Yang’s comments were widely mocked, including by his fellow mayoral candidates. “I spent all of 2020 in NYC, living with THREE generations under one roof, AND running a campaign from home,” nonprofit executive Dianne Morales tweeted after Yang’s admission.
“Asking whether that person is an authentic New Yorker, I think New Yorkers will answer that question, and so far we have more donors than any other campaign and more volunteers,” Coffey said, citing the “outpouring of support for Yang.”
Though there’s still more than three months remaining until the mayoral primaries, Yang has emerged as an early frontrunner in the race to replace term-limited Mayor Bill de Blasio with a campaign centered around making New York an “anti-poverty city” with policies like universal basic income and COVID relief.
One poll last month showed Yang getting the support of 28 percent of voters surveyed, a more-than-double-digit lead over the next-most-popular candidate, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, according to Politico.