Andrew Yang: What you need to know about the political rookie, White House hopeful

PHOTO: Andrew Yang speaks at the National Action Network (NAN) convention in New York City, April 4, 2019.PlayMichael Brochstein/Sopa Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
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Andrew Yang, one of the candidates who made an early entry in the 2020 field, might not have much name recognition now, but his popularity and presence have netted increased prominence among the crowded bench -- due in part to his unconventional proposals to resolve income disparity and warnings of a robot takeover of America's job sector.

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Yang, an entrepreneur who mounted his long-shot bid for the White House back in February 2018, has crafted a campaign platform around the issue of universal basic income -- proposing that the government provides all Americans 18 and older with $1,000 per month that would be funded by a value-added tax.

"I’m a capitalist," he told the New York Times in the interview that launched his campaign, "and I believe that universal basic income is necessary for capitalism to continue."

"If you have a town in Missouri with 50,000 adults and they’re all getting $1,000 a month, that’s another $50 million in purchasing power that comes right into that town’s local economy -- into car repairs, tutoring or food for your kids, the occasional night out, home repairs," he told "Rolling Stone" in January. "And that money ends up circulating all through that town."

PHOTO: Andrew Yang, a candidate in the Democratic primaries for president, arrives at a town hall meeting sponsored by the Euclid chapter of the NAACP at Christ Lutheran Church in Cleveland, Feb. 24, 2019. Phil Long/AP
Andrew Yang, a candidate in the Democratic primaries for president, arrives at a town hall meeting sponsored by the Euclid chapter of the NAACP at Christ Lutheran Church in Cleveland, Feb. 24, 2019.

At the National Action Network conference in New York in April, the tech industry veteran underscored the importance of addressing the needs of the future -- as motivations for his candidacy.

Technology and capital are "about to come and verge in historical ways," he said Wednesday, which he added will cause many jobs to disappear.

The 44-year-old New York businessman speaks frequently about both income inequality and the economic transformation that has enriched certain parts of the country while disproportionately harming regions that have failed to keep pace.

"I was stunned when I saw the disparities between Detroit and San Francisco or Cleveland and Manhattan. You feel like you’re traveling across dimensions and decades and not just a couple of time zones," he added in that interview with the magazine. "None of our political leaders are willing to acknowledge the elephant in the room that is tearing our communities apart, in the form of technological change."

Despite his under-the-radar campaign, Yang announced this month that his campaign raised $1.7 million in less than two months across February and March. In recent surveys he's been garnering as much support as bigger names like former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. The average donation was $17.92 and 99% of donations were under $200.

Yang's fundraising haul came from over 80,000 donors and followed his announcement in March that he cleared the grassroots fundraising threshold of 65,000 donors to qualify for the first Democratic primary debate.

"It’s pretty clear that Andrew Yang is the story of the 2020 election. He has blown through the 65,000 donor requirement laid out by the DNC, and our goal is to increase that to 100k by the end of the month," said his campaign manager Zach Graumann.

When asked if he supports some of the bolder ideas confronting the deep field of Democrats in the 2020 race, on reparations, Yang said Wednesday, he would "100 percent yes" reinstitute the ability of the Department of Justice to study patterns and practices of law enforcement and use consent decrees.

PHOTO: U.S. 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang speaks at Potluck Insurgency, a local democratic activist event, at the home of one of its members in Iowa City, Iowa, March 10, 2019. Scott Morgan/Reuters
U.S. 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang speaks at Potluck Insurgency, a local democratic activist event, at the home of one of its members in Iowa City, Iowa, March 10, 2019.

Here's everything you need to know:

Name: Andrew Yang

Party: Democrat

Date of Birth: Jan. 13, 1975

Age: 44

Hometown: Schenectady, New York

Early life:

Yang grew up in upstate New York, the son of Taiwanese immigrants. He and his brother grew up "pretty nerdy," according to Yang's campaign website. While his dad worked at IBM as a researcher, who generated over 60 patents over his career, his mother worked as a system administrator at a local university.

He studied at Brown University, majoring in economics and political science before attending Columbia for law school.

What he does now:

Yang is the founder of the nonprofit Venture for America, which trains college graduates interested in entrepreneurship and seek to work for startups in cities like Baltimore, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Cleveland.

In its first year, according to his campaign website, VFA trained 40 fellows. In 2017, more than 500 VFA-connected people launched dozens of companies.

What he used to do:

Yang worked a "brief stint" as a corporate lawyer before founding a failed tech startup. He later became CEO of Manhattan Prep, a test-prep company that was acquired by Kaplan in 2009.

What you may not know about him:

He appeared on "The Breakfast Club," a hip-hop talk show and burgeoning pit-stop for Democratic candidates. He was named a Champion of Change and a Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship by the Obama administration in 2012 and in 2015, respectively.

ABC News' Adam Kelsey contributed to this report.

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