Andrew Yang may be leading early polls in the New York City mayor’s race, but he has nonetheless faced skepticism from many left-leaning voters and trails most of his main Democratic rivals in endorsements.
On Wednesday, Mr. Yang will try to counter that skepticism, announcing that he has landed the support of Carlos Menchaca, a city councilman from Brooklyn.
Before dropping out of the mayor’s race last month, Mr. Menchaca had positioned himself as one of the most left-leaning Democrats in the field.
Mr. Menchaca, who is Mexican-American and grew up in public housing in Texas, is best known for scuttling the Industry City rezoning on the Brooklyn waterfront last year — the city’s biggest clash over development since the collapse of the Amazon deal in Queens — and for proposing the legislation that created identification cards for undocumented residents.
He also called for defunding the police, as has Dianne Morales, a former nonprofit executive whom Mr. Menchaca often praised on the campaign trail, and who would have been a more expected endorsement choice.
But Mr. Menchaca said in an interview that he was drawn to Mr. Yang because of the candidate’s support for universal basic income — even though Mr. Yang’s plan for New York involves a pared-down model — and his proposal to create a public bank to serve low-income and undocumented residents who do not have a bank account.
“We share a lot of values that are rooted in bringing community voices to the table to shape policies,” Mr. Menchaca said.
Activists in the left wing of the party have viewed Mr. Yang and Eric Adams — the two perceived front-runners in the race — with suspicion for being too moderate and too friendly toward the business and real estate communities. Neither has embraced the defund movement as Mr. Menchaca has.
But Mr. Yang does have backing from two prominent left-leaning Democrats: Representative Ritchie Torres of the Bronx, the first openly gay Afro-Latino member of Congress, and Ron Kim, a Queens assemblyman who has made headlines recently for criticizing Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s handling of nursing home deaths during the pandemic.
Mr. Yang said in an interview that Mr. Menchaca was part of the “next generation of leaders” who were joining his campaign. Mr. Yang, 46, would be the city’s first Generation X mayor, and Mr. Menchaca, Mr. Torres and Mr. Kim are all younger than him.
“Carlos is a young Latino L.G.B.T.Q. progressive leader, and we are excited to have him on board on so many levels,” Mr. Yang said. “He has been fighting for marginalized communities for years.”
Mr. Menchaca, who cannot run for the City Council again because of term limits, said he hoped to work in a Yang administration should Mr. Yang win.
“We’re going to get him elected with this growing coalition, and then we can start talking about what the next government is going to look like,” he said.
Mr. Yang is perhaps best known for promoting universal basic income on the presidential campaign trail. As mayor, he wants to provide 500,000 New Yorkers living in poverty with an average of $2,000 per year. He said the city will pay $1 billion each year toward the program, but he has not said where that money would come from, and critics say the payments are too low to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives.
He differs from Mr. Menchaca on some issues, most notably on development-related concerns. Mr. Menchaca has been a fierce critic of city rezonings that allow for new development and has raised fears over gentrification, while Mr. Yang says he is generally pro-development. Mr. Yang called the collapse of the Amazon deal a “black eye” for the city and lamented the jobs that could have been created.
Mr. Menchaca said he hoped to advocate for community needs with Mr. Yang during future rezoning battles.
“Government didn’t listen to constituents” during the Amazon deal, Mr. Menchaca said, “and that would not happen in a Yang administration. That’s not going to happen if I’m there or Ron is there.”
Mr. Kim opposed the Amazon deal and a rezoning effort in Flushing, Queens, that was approved by the City Council last year. When Mr. Kim endorsed Mr. Yang early in the mayor’s race, he said he joined the “Yang bus” in part to influence him on issues like rezonings.
“I chose to be on that bus so that I can steer that bus in the right direction,” he said.
When Mr. Yang ended his 2020 presidential campaign, he related how several of his former rivals, including Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey and Vice President Kamala Harris, called or sent text messages to commiserate.
He said he did the same for Mr. Menchaca when the councilman dropped out, sharing mutual experiences over what it feels like to end a campaign.
“We connected on that human level,” Mr. Menchaca. “That’s the kind of mayor I want to have.”