By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Republican Joe Lhota, who beat back a primary challenge from billionaire supermarket mogul John Catsimatidis in Tuesday’s GOP Primary for mayor, called for party unity as the key to defeating the Democratic candidate in the race for City Hall in November.
“Now is the time for our party to come together and unite for the common good,” Lhota told supporters at his victory party at the Hilton Hotel ballroom in Manhattan on Tuesday night after defeating Catsimatidis 53 percent to 41 percent in the Republican Primary for mayor.
A third candidate, Doe Fund founder George McDonald, trailed far behind with 7 percent.
It’s not clear who Lhota will face in the November election. The results of the Democratic Primary had Public Advocate Bill de Blasio way out in front, with 40 percent of the vote. But with paper and absentee ballots left to be counted, it wasn’t clear if de Blasio would maintain his 40 percent, thus avoiding a runoff on Oct. 1, or if he would fall below that magic number. If the final tally has de Blasio with less than 40 percent, he would face a runoff with the second place finisher, former comptroller Bill Thompson.
In his victory speech, Lhota, who lives in Brooklyn, seemed eager to put the GOP campaign behind him and start anew with his former rivals.
“Again, it is time to unify our Party; to strengthen it and prepare it for victory in November. I’d like John Catsimatidis and George McDonald to stand with me and help unify the party. John is a good man and a solid New Yorker. He and I agree on more than we disagree. George is a great guy and a visionary leader. He has become a true friend during this primary. I will seek the advice and counsel of these men as my campaign goes forward,” he said.
Lhota, the former chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, also appeared to be making a pitch to win the votes of centrist Democrats who might be uncomfortable with the idea of a left-leaning mayor like de Blasio. “We have a proud tradition in this city of electing strong and independent mayors, regardless of party affiliation,” he said.
But Lhota used most of his speech to stake out his position as a pro-business, pro-cop candidate. The New York Times reported Wednesday that Lhota is viewed by many in the Republican Party as the last best hope to prevent City Hall from falling into the hands of Liberals.
“Over the course of the next two months, New Yorkers will see two completely different visions for the future of this city. I hear an awful lot coming from the other side about the ‘tale of two cities’ and how they want to tear down the progress that’s happened over the last 20 years. This ‘tale’ is nothing more than class warfare, an attempt to divide the city," he said, taking a shot at de Blasio, whose campaign stressed the “tale of two cities” theme.
Lhota, who served as a deputy mayor for Rudy Giuliani, called the “two cities” argument “a feeble retreat to the same old playbook that promises a perfect world, but delivers only special-interest-dominated politics” and charged that it was “this kind of thinking that has historically brought our city to the brink of bankruptcy and rampant civic decay.”
Harkening back not just to the Bloomberg era, but the mayoralty of his old boss, Rudy Giuliani, Lhota said the city had come a long way from the crime-infested nightmare of the 1980s and early 1990s. “The city has transformed over the last two decades. Crime is at historic lows, the economy has expanded and we have new growing emerging industries that are creating good-paying jobs. This did not happen by accident. It happened because the public and private sectors came together to improve our quality of life,” he said.
“To keep this transformation going, we need to keep our streets safe--and we can do that by supporting the NYPD. I’m proud of the men and women in blue who have brought down crime almost 75 percent over the last twenty years. I am determined to bring it down even further,” Lhota said.
Lhota said he believes in the controversial stop-and-frisk policy employed by the Police Department under Mayor Bloomberg. “Let me be very clear about something: Handcuffing and demoralizing our police officers will have catastrophic consequences. I will support the NYPD and I believe that Stop, Question and Frisk must continue,” he told supporters.
Lhota pledged to slash taxes on businesses, saying that it would improve the city’s economic climate. “Low crime is the first step toward encouraging businesses to invest here. But we also need to create an attractive business climate that allows for job creation. I have a plan that will cut specific taxes so that entrepreneurs can create new and emerging businesses. I will also reign in the excessive fines and fees that are strangling small businesses. And I will create a one-stop-shop for businesses dealing with the city that will cut through bureaucracy and red tape,” he said.
The Republican candidate also promised to reinstate monthly town hall meetings, which Giuliani had conducted during his administration. “I think the city needs to do a better job of communicating with the public and one of the first things I’ll do as mayor is reinstate monthly town hall meetings where the public can come and speak to me and my commissioners directly,” he said.