By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
In the last days of the mayoral contest, both Democrat Bill de Blasio and Republican Joe Lhota hit the campaign trail in southern Brooklyn, greeting voters at subway stations, visiting sports bars, and in Lhota’s case chatting on the phone with a supporter at a storefront campaign headquarters.
Front-runner de Blasio visited two R train stations in Bay Ridge during the rush hour on Monday morning, the day before Election Day, shaking hands with voters on their way to work. A group of de Blasio supporters, including Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst), joined the candidate during his appearances at the 77th Street and 86th Street.
A day earlier, Lhota was all over Bay Ridge and the neighboring community of Dyker Heights. The Republican candidate visited the Salty Dog, a sports bar on Third Avenue, where he chatted with fans watching the Jets game and ate a sandwich. He then stopped by a Lhota campaign headquarters on 13th Avenue in Dyker Heights, where he shook hands with volunteers manning the phones. Volunteers were calling local residents and asking them to vote for Lhota on Nov. 5.
State Sen. Marty Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-southern Brooklyn), Brooklyn Conservative Party Chairman Jerry Kassar and John Quaglione, a Republican-Conservative candidate for City Council, were among those leading the cheers for Lhota at the campaign headquarters.
Lhota joked that he had run in the New York City Marathon that morning.
At one point, Ross Brady, a campaign volunteer, handed Lhota a cell phone and told him a voter wanted to talk to him. “I will keep your streets safe,” Lhota told the woman, who had apparently expressed her concerns to him about public safety.
Lhota also visited Nathan’s Famous in Coney Island and munched on a hot dog.
As the campaign was winding down, de Blasio faced a last-minute storm of controversy over remarks made by celebrity supporter Harry Belafonte at a church in Harlem.
Belafonte was there to introduce de Blasio at the First Corinthian Baptist Church. Before introducing de Blasio, however, Belafonte blasted the Koch brothers, the conservative financiers who are backers of the Tea Party and who have contributed to Lhota’s campaign. According to Politicker, Belafonte called the Koch brothers “white supremacists" and likened them to the Ku Klux Klan.
Lhota was quick to criticize de Blasio for failing to immediately speak out against Belafonte’s incendiary remarks.
“It’s reprehensible that a candidate for mayor of the city of New York would closely associate himself with an individual who has equated the American government to Al Qaida and the 9/11 hijackers and has a long history of hateful, racist remarks. What’s worse, when Bill de Blasio had an opportunity to speak out against his hate speech today, he was silent and instead called Mr. Belafonte ‘a treasure to our nation.’ There is no room in our public discourse for race-baiting, hate speech from anyone--white, black or otherwise,” Lhota said in a statement released by his campaign.
“One of our greatest mayors, Ed Koch, denounced Mr. Belafonte and urged other Democrats to do the same. Our public leaders must have the courage and conviction to speak out against unacceptable conduct. Mr. de Blasio had that opportunity and failed. He should immediately denounce Mr. Belafonte’s hate speech and call on him to apologize. Anything less would be a disservice to New Yorkers,” Lhota stated.
NY 1 reported that de Blasio later distanced himself from Belanfonte.
"I disagree with that characterization," de Blasio said. "I have great respect for Harry Belafonte, but I think that was the wrong way to talk about them, and I don't think that's fair," he said.
Most polls had de Blasio with an overwhelming lead over Lhota in the race.