If MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota decides to enter the mayor’s race, he is by no means a lock to win the Republican nomination. In fact, he’ll have to contest with a suddenly crowded Republican field. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.
Just a few months ago, while some of the city’s most prominent Democrats jockeyed for position in next year’s mayor’s race, the Republican cupboard was bare. Now, the tables have turned.
Joseph Lhota, who announced Wednesday he was resigning as MTA chairman to explore a run, is only the latest entry. Three former Democrats - publisher Tom Allon, George McDonald, founder of the Doe Fund, and former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion - have all changed party affiliation to run as Republicans. Another Democrat, State Senator Malcolm Smith, is also interested.
"It wasn’t too long ago, everyone was decrying the fact that there were no Republicans seeking the party's nomination," said Dan Isaacs, the Manhattan GOP chairman. "And now, our cup runneth over, so to speak."
Isaacs is one of five men whose opinion matters most. He is one of the city’s five Republican county chairmen.
All of them praise Lhota, but also remain unconvinced he’s their best candidate. Brooklyn GOP chairman Craig Eaton supports Adolfo Carrion. Others prefer supermarket mogul John Catsimatidis, who’s also weighing a run.
"If John runs, I will definitely be supporting John," said Phil Ragusa, the Queens GOP chairman.
"If John is in, I’m with him," Isaacs said. "But again, Joe just adds something else to the mix."
Lhota will meet personally with the county chairs in early January. If he can’t win them over, he could still petition his way into the Republican primary, a scenario some county chairs hope to avoid.
"I think a primary in this stage for the mayor race will be divisive," Eaton said.
"All things being equal, I would prefer to see a situation which all Republicans are united behind one candidate," said Robert Scamardella, the Staten Island GOP chairman.
Whoever the nominee is, Republicans are hoping to extend a most unlikely winning streak. In this most Democratic of cities, a Republican has won each of the last fast five mayoral contests. The last Democrat to win was David Dinkins in 1989.