State Senator John Liu threw his support behind Andrew Yang in the Democratic Primary race for mayor on Monday.
The former city councilman, comptroller and mayoral candidate compared Yang to history-making figures in New York City politics, praising him for putting the Asian American community in the spotlight during his presidential campaign.
"This is a man who stuck to it," Liu said. "I know how difficult it is to run for office. He became our hope, he was our dream. He is a bit our Shirley Chisholm."
If elected, Yang would become the city's first Asian American mayor. Over the last few months, Yang has secured the support of some Asian American groups throughout the city, including some City Council candidates and from smaller communities around the city.
"I'm going to finish the job that John Liu started and become the first Asian American mayor in the history of New York City," Yang said to cheers and applause from supporters gathered at City Hall Park on Monday.
Liu's endorsement is significant for Yang. Liu was the first Asian American to be elected to citywide office, and the first to be elected in the City Council.
Despite finishing fourth in the 2013 Democratic primary race for mayor, Liu has remained an influential voice especially in the city's Asian American community, which has increased political representation in recent years.
But the state senator and the entrepreneur are not always on the same page.
"His platform is comprehensive. I don't agree with every single thing," Liu said.
Liu and Yang disagree on policing and public safety, a defining issue in this Democratic primary.
The senator did not elaborate on what the disagreements are specifically, but he acknowledged the two had several conversations about policing ahead of Monday's endorsement.
"Andrew was receptive to my thinking that most people should be able to live their entire lives without having any encounter with the police, good or bad," Liu said. "To me, this is not an issue with the police. This is an issue with government and society."
With a recent rise in anti-Asian hate crimes, Liu says Asian American New Yorkers are looking to make their voices heard.
"Asian Americans are ginned up because people are upset at the onslaught of Asian American hate," Liu said.
According to Asian and Pacific Island American Vote, a group which works to increase civic engagement among Asian American and Pacific Islanders, the largest AAPI groups in New York are made up of Chinese New Yorkers.
More than 740,000 of them call New York home, and from 2012 to 2018, the number of eligible AAPI voters in the state has grown by an estimated 24%. Liu was born in Taiwan, while Yang’s parents are Taiwanese immigrants.
The Asian-American vote has been heavily courted in this and elections past.
"Eric [Adams] and other candidates did a great job of it. They had many years' lead on Andrew," Liu said.
Asked about Liu's endorsement, Adams praised Liu and his work in politics over the last few years. He said the two had a "private conversation" where Liu explained his reason for endorsing Yang.
"I'm going to push hard to become his number two," Adams said. "But everyone knows my support in the Asian community is amazing. I have a great bloc of supporters that are going to be with me."
Liu, who has spent more than two decades working in government, dismissed Yang's lack of experience in politics. Instead, he focused on his accomplishments, although questions have been raised about Yang's business success.
"The important thing here is the real-world experience as a New Yorker. That's what we need in the mayor of NYC," he said.
Despite some of their policy disagreements, Liu said he believes will bring a fresh pair of eyes and new ideas to City Hall despite his lack of government experience. He noted it wouldn't be the first time New York City elects a mayor who has never worked in municipal government.