Former MTA chairman Joe Lhota formally entered the race for mayor this week.
The media savvy GOP candidate spread the word on his new Twitter account, JoeLhota4mayor:
“All my followers should follow @joelhota4mayor The campaign has begun!”
Despite his late entry, pundits say he has already changed the multi-candidate Republican primary. Lhota, while running in a heavily Democratic city, is a self proclaimed “practical republican.” He’s conservative, but also pro-choice and favors marriage equality. “I certainly think Joe Lhota scares the Democratic candidates a whole lot more than any other Republican,” said election poll analyst Micheline Blum.
Meanwhile, the Bronx native claims he has no qualms about joining the already crowded 2013 race: “New York is in my DNA and I want to take the city to the next level.”
Lhota joins the race “fresh from a genuinely impressive year as chief of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority,” reports the New York Times. Last month, he resigned as head of the MTA to pursue the GOP nomination.
Aside from being the top “mass transit guy”, the candidate is also known for being the right hand man of Rudy Giuliani during his time in office. The 58-year-old Lhota has served as a deputy mayor and budget director under the former Mayor.
Giulian is reported to have greatly encouraged his protege to join the race, saying no one was more qualified in the current lineup of potential candidates than Lhota.
“I told him that for the good of the city, he should run,” Giuliani told a news source. However, noting that registered Republicans are outnumbered 6 to 1 by Democrats, the former Mayor added, “He has to be prepared for the very long odds against him.”
Likewise, the GOP candidate had nothing but kind words for his former boss: “I was part of the renaissance that went on. I was part of that team, and I am very proud of that,” he said according to published reports. He went on to say Giuliani doesn’t get all the credit he deserves for restoring safety to at-risk neighborhoods throughout Gotham City.
Lhota also spoke highly of New York’s current mayor, Michael Bloomberg. Despite not always seeing eye to eye with Bloomberg— outspoken Lhota called him “an idiot” for offering the public a clear timetable on reopening a tunnel after Sandy- the candidate told a news source he fully supports many of Bloomberg’s policies.
“We should be very thankful that he’s been the mayor for the last 12 years,” Lhota said. “I agree with Mike on almost everything he’s done.”
While the mayoral hopeful insists it’s “too early” to say whether he would keep Bloomberg’s police commissioner, Ray Kelly, if elected, he did say he supports NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy as a policing tool.
“Anyone who says we should eliminate stop-and-frisk really is putting the city in danger,” he said. However, he did advise he would want to ensure the policy is not being abused by providing cops more training in regards to when it should be employed.
Despite singing praises to those who came before, many predict the colorful public figure will bring something new to the table. Lhota describes himself as less “reserved” and more “outspoken” than Bloomberg and “a lot more progressive on social issues” than his old boss Giuliani.
Meanwhile, on his recently launched campaign site, he offered up a message to his supporters:
“Since I left my position as Chairman and CEO of the MTA just two weeks ago, I’ve been asked over and over, Joe, why do you want to be the Mayor of New York City?” he wrote on his homepage. “I understand that a lot of politicians would come up with a slick, scripted answer, but my answer is a lot like me: direct and straightforward. I love this City – I love its diversity and optimism, and the opportunity it represents. But the very things I love about New York City are fragile and must be protected.”
If Lhota becomes the GOP nominee, he will most likely face New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in the general election. Quinn, who has yet to announce her bid, is considered by many as the front-runner on the Democratic side.