How Sharing the Campaign Spotlight Has Been a 'Game-Changer' for Andrew and Evelyn Yang

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courtesy yang family/Lucas Kult-Banout From left: Evelyn, Damian, Christopher and Andrew Yang

Editor's note: This is one of a series of interviews with leading candidates in the New York City mayoral race. Click here to read more about Eric Adams, Kathryn Garcia and Maya Wiley.

If (as the old saying tells us) absence makes the heart grow fonder, then candidates for public office would certainly reap the rewards from their months on the road and away from home.

But in the case of Andrew and Evelyn Yang, the couple says, the opposite is true. It's a partnership they were happy to show off in a recent joint interview with PEOPLE.

While they spent a lot of time apart during Andrew's presidential campaign - which turned him from curio into serious politico - his mayoral campaign has allowed him and Evelyn and their kids even more time together, they say. And their bond is stronger for it.

"I can even lay out an arc of [the impact]," Andrew says, adding that when he began his campaign appearances in early 2018, "I was crisscrossing the country basically by myself."

At that point, he says, the couple was chopping up their lives to accommodate the demands of his schedule.

"It was more like, 'Okay, you campaign and I'll be with the kids and we'll sort of divide and conquer,' " Andrew says of his and Evelyn's early discussions regarding how they would handle the world of politics.

By late 2019, the long stretches of time away from the family had taken their toll and Evelyn joined Andrew on the trail.

"It was such a game-changer for the campaign but also a game-changer for the family and for me," Andrew says. "I can even remember, after she started campaigning, I said to someone, 'I have no idea how I did this without Evelyn.' "

RELATED: Former Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang Is Running for New York City Mayor

After his presidential bid ended last February, Andrew endorsed now-President Joe Biden and stayed politically active - relocating to Georgia to get out the vote ahead of the elections there and launching another campaign, for mayor of New York City, this year.

As Andrew tells PEOPLE, "There's a bit of a separation in what our roles are. I'm the candidate. The candidate has to run and be positive and present a vision for the city and what we can be."

Evelyn, her husband says, can make more of a personal impact by connecting with voters over shared experiences.

She has embraced this public role of sorts. Though she tells PEOPLE she's a "private person," she has spoken out about some of her life's hardest moments as a voice for survivors of sexual abuse - including speaking out against an N.Y.C. gynecologist since indicted on federal charges (which he denied, though he previously pleaded guilty in another sexual abuse case).

During her husband's mayoral campaign, Evelyn has grown increasingly visible - and more vocal - recently condemning a cartoon that depicted her husband as, she says, "the perpetual Asian foreigner."

courtesy yang family/Lucas Kult-Banout

Issues of racism and anti-Asian hate hit particularly close to home for the Yangs, with the couple telling PEOPLE they've discussed it with their children, 8-year-old Christopher and 5-year-old Damian.

"I've had to explain to him that people will look at us and assume that we're not from here," Evelyn says.

Andrew - who would be the first Asian-American mayor of New York - says he would be "extraordinarily proud" to be elected as a member of the AAPI community, because of "what that would say about New York City."

He is one of a handful of candidates in the crowded mayoral race who is leading in the polls, propelled (depending on who you ask) by his celebrity as much as his positivity, his embrace of entrepreneurialism, his omnipresence in public and his status as a political outsider.

To critics, each of these can also be a negative - and with Andrew's increased odds at success has come increased scrutiny: about the depth of his past accomplishments, about his ideology, about how much he really understands about the job he's seeking.

"I understand that Andrew is the front-runner in this race … so the level of scrutiny is just unbelievably high," Evelyn tells PEOPLE.

While she admits that the negativity of a campaign can feel heavy, she and Andrew both have thick skin and don't mind when some of his gaffes or awkward social media posts get the meme treatment.

"We didn't grow up in politics. We're a real family, you know?" Evelyn says, turning to her husband to add, unabashedly: "You're not super polished."

courtesy yang family The Yang family

Andrew's awkwardness, says Evelyn, is what first endeared him to her when the two met at Columbia University, when Andrew was then working for Manhattan Prep, a test preparation company he later sold.

In one of the first interviews Evelyn gave after her husband announced his candidacy for president, she remembered how Andrew had "no game" when they met.

She says his lack of game hasn't changed - and she doesn't mind one bit.

"There's no pretense about Andrew; literally, what you see is what you get. He's so incredibly earnest. So incredibly genuine," she says. "That's not easy to find in New York City in the dating game - like someone who will tell you they like you if they like you? I found that so incredibly refreshing."

For his part, Andrew says he doesn't pay attention to most of the jokes about his style and humor. Evelyn, though, doesn't mind when others poke fun at her husband - saying she's been know to get in on the fun, too.

"He has this sort of, like, irreverent, goofy dad humor that is not everyone's cup of tea," she says. "I happen to like it, but I'm married to him. But sometimes, I roll my eyes at him, too."

RELATED: Andrew Yang's Wife Evelyn Says She Was Sexually Assaulted by Her Gynecologist While Pregnant

The couple's interactions with one another - and the causes about which Evelyn has become most vocal - offer a window into what they might be like as a first couple of New York (and what Andrew might be like as mayor of a city with a GDP larger than most countries).

He announced his candidacy for mayor in January, sharing a video on social media that preemptively underscored his love for the city and what he hopes to accomplish, even as detractors raised their eyebrows over the new venture.

Andrew is campaigning on establishing a guaranteed minimum income (similar to his presidential bid) as well as providing affordable internet access to residents and improving transportation infrastructure.

On his campaign website, he also outlines plans to provide COVID-19 relief and for reopening and revitalizing a city battered by the last year - which has become a major focus across the mayoral field.

Yang for NY The Yang family

Still, between balancing debate prep and campaign appearances to tout the city's reopening, the Yangs say they maintain a somewhat stereotypical home life.

"Washing the dishes became one of my go-to tasks during this past year," Andrew says, adding, "Being the candidate, you do feel like you have to contribute where you can."

He also dresses the kids in the morning while Evelyn packs their lunches, walking them to the bus stop before heading back home for a moment of quiet, just the two of them.

"If we have a few minutes to ourselves after they're gone, it's very happy," Eveshelyn says.

"We will have breakfast, and then we will sometimes gossip about our kids," Andrew chimes in with a laugh.

Despite maintaining a sense of normalcy at home, the couple says the months since Andrew's mayoral campaign announcement have changed their partnership in some ways.

"I was absolutely emboldened by being on the trail the first time," Evelyn says. "And the second time, I feel like I've become almost a sounding board for others. I see that as a responsibility and a privilege."

And Andrew says the challenges and criticisms have allowed the two to grow closer together.

"We were always close and loving, but when she wasn't campaigning we each had our hands full," he says. "Having Evelyn on the campaign trail makes me feel more whole and complete."

Plus, Evelyn adds, "Everyone says he's in a much better mood when I'm around."