Joe Lhota welcomed Bill de Blasio into the general election today, surprisingly taking few digs at his opponent and saying he looked forward to the upcoming debate. NY1's Courtney Gross filed the following report.
Joe Lhota's first move in the general election was a cordial one.
"I would like to congratulate Bill de Blasio on winning the Democratic nomination," Lhota said. "I am looking forward to a vigorous debate over the next two months about issues that are of concern to all New Yorkers."
Now that he knows his opponent, Lhota attempted to highlight some of the contrasts between the two.
"I think Bill de Blasio's change is radical. My change is practical. It's straightforward. It's to be able to build upon what we have done, not tear down what has happened," Lhota said.
GOP strategists say Lhota could not have asked for a better opponent.
With de Blasio more left of center, the former Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman can become the more moderate in the race.
It's an opportunity Lhota would not have had against the more centrist Bill Thompson.
"There is a stark difference between us, and New Yorkers will have a real choice," Lhota said.
But Lhota wasn't getting into that many details on Monday.
In fact, the head of the state Republican Party was much more anxious than the candidate himself to blast de Blasio.
"He doesn't care about crime in this city, and if crime and grime come back to this city, that's going to drive some of our most productive not just citizens, but industries out. The financial industry can move elsewhere," said New York State Republican Chairman Edward Cox.
It's no secret that Lhota faces an uphill battle.
In a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans six to one, Lhota has to appeal to crossover voters.
And unlike Mayor Bloomberg, he does not have the help of the Independence Party line.
"Mike Bloomberg and Rudy Giuliani portrayed the Democratic candidates as not ready for prime time, and that's something that Joe can do and should do, but it's a hard argument to make," said political consultant Stu Loeser.
"There is not a community that I don't reach out to and listen to and, you know, be able to work with them and try to tell them exactly what I will do for them and for their community," Lhota said.
Lhota was already doing that.
On Tuesday, he has scheduled a closed door meeting with the Reverend Al Sharpton.