Why Aren't People Taking Republican NYC Candidate Joe Lhota (Who Is Pretty Dang Libertarian, BTW) Seriously as a Potential Mayor?


I'm runnin' for mayor over here! ||| Andrew Hawkins, Crains New York
Andrew Hawkins, Crains New York

I don't expect to ever understand New York City politics, but there's something genuinely mystifying about the coverage of the clownshow passing for the Democratic Party mayoral primary (what with its boner narcissist, bullying progressive, and environmental-race-card-player all jostling for pole position). Which is to say, why do so many people think that the likely GOP nominee, former MTA head and longtime Guiliani economics guy Joe Lhota, has no prayer in a city that hasn't voted Democrat for mayor since before the Berlin Wall came down?

Here's some typical analysis from Ken Auletta in The New Yorker:

In New York City, a Republican candidate has only a slim chance of becoming mayor, as registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by about seven to one. Giuliani won two elections by promising to be tough on crime, and Bloomberg won three times by stressing the city's need to rebound economically, first after 9/11 and then after the 2008 recession. With no equivalent torch issue in sight this year, Bloomberg's successor most likely will be chosen by between five hundred thousand and seven hundred thousand voters, those who pick the winner of the Democratic primary—that is, by roughly ten per cent of the city's five million eligible voters. In effect, Bloomberg's strategist Kevin Sheekey told me, "For the first time in twenty-four years, New York City will not have a general election."

That's one theory. Another might be that New York voters choose non-Democrat executives as a form of restraint over progressive excess and the local Democratic machine, the latter of which is especially awful.

Anyway, the New York Post has a fun profile today of the great GOP hope, under the headline "Not your average Republican: Joe Lhota favors 'fiscal discipline'—as well as abortion, same-sex marriage and pot legalization." Here's how it begins:

He's not your average Republican candidate for mayor.

Joe Lhota calls himself a "new brand of Republican" — in favor of "fiscal discipline" but progressive on social issues: He's pro-choice on abortion, is fine with same-sex marriage, and is in favor of legalizing marijuana.

Asked when he last smoked pot, he said, "It's been 40 years. It's so long ago I can't remember. I probably had a full head of hair."

But Lhota does recall holding libertarian views when he was just 10 years old.

"In 1964, I tried to convince my grandfather, who was active in the New York City firefighters union, to vote for Barry Goldwater over Lyndon Johnson because at the time I thought his approach to limited government was right on," he recalled.

Whole thing, including digs at Michael Bloomberg's nannyism, here.