NEW YORK—As the Federal government heads into a second day of shut down, sentiment for Republicans grows weary nationwide. For Republican mayoral nominee Joe Lhota, the timing could not be worse.
Lhota is running in a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans seven to one, and he has not been shy about owning up to the need for Democratic support on Election Day, Nov. 5. The Republican brand has been slung through the mud in recent days, and ties to the nation’s conservative party are being viewed in a negative light.
While Lhota may be running on the Republican line, he argued people should not lump him in with his party colleagues in Washington.
“Anybody who wants to tag me with what is going on in Washington, I think is going to be making a very big mistake,” Lhota said outside of Yeshiva University in Manhattan Tuesday. “Not all Republicans believe what is going on is the right thing to do.”
Lhota spoke out repeatedly about Congress acting irresponsibly, chiding them for not representing the people who elected them.
“What they are doing is outrageous and wrong and they need to stop it,” Lhota said. “The government of the United States of America needs to continue to work and move forward.”
His Democratic rival in the mayor’s race, Bill de Blasio, seized the opportunity to attack Lhota for his alleged ties to the Tea Party, the hyper-Conservative arm of the Republican Party for which much of the blame for the government shutdown lays squarely on.
De Blasio’s campaign set up a Tumblr page, citing a speech Lhota gave to Tea Party members, as well as a New York Times article showing Lhota giving praise to Barry Goldwater, an unapologetic conservative from the 1960s.
Lhota, who had not seen the Tumblr page yet, scoffed at the insinuation that he had any ties to the Tea Party.
“I have not agreed with anything the Tea Party has done,” Lhota said. “I think they are a bad force for the Republican Party. They are extremists and are moving the [Republican] Party in the direction that I think is wrong.”
He also noted that while at some point during his interview with the New York Times he praised Barry Goldwater, he was also critical of him, particularly for voting against the equal rights act, and on many issues of race.
A reporter asked about David Koch, a Tea Party backer, who donated to Lhota’s campaign and set up an independent expenditure (IE). Lhota said the IE is out of his control, and reminded the reporter that Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, took over $50,000 in donations from Koch.
“If I am tied to the Tea Party, then so is Andrew Cuomo,” Lhota said.
Last week Lhota soaked up the opportunity to slam de Blasio for his youthful ties to the Sandinistas, a far left Nicaraguan group, but got heated about the latest attack, which once again put the focus on ideology, not issues.
“If Bill wants to run this race through character assassination, it makes me even more confident that I will win,” Lhota said, “He goes into one debate and he wants to slam me that way, I will go toe to toe with him, but I will beat him on the issues.”
Lhota has been eager to share his ideas and increase his name recognition, even challenging de Blasio to weekly debates. The Democrat declined, but did agree to one extra debate (for a total of three), the first of which will air on Oct. 15.
De Blasio has had limited events on his public schedule since the primary, drawing Lhota to prod his Democratic opponent out.
“Where is Bill? Where is his vision? Where does he want to go?” Lhota asked the press corps.
On Tuesday, de Blasio did not show up to his lone event, a radio interview on 1010 WINS at 7:30 a.m. His campaign said the event had been rescheduled, but did not offer a date, or alternate public event.