Tuesday, October 21, 2014

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NY1's Grace Rauh and Courtney Gross examine what's shaped the lives of mayoral candidates Bill de Blasio and Joseph Lhota in this two-week special series.

The Contenders: Lhota First Tested Political Waters As Georgetown Student

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TWC News: The Contenders: Lhota First Tested Political Waters As Georgetown Student
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As NY1 continues to examine mayoral candidate Joe Lhota, political reporter Courtney Gross looks at his time spent at Georgetown in the 1970s and his early business career as an investment banker in New York City.

Initially waitlisted, Joe Lhota arrived in Washington D.C. in 1973 to study business and accounting at Georgetown University. But he quickly turned to politics -- at least on campus.

"He instantly impressed me as the first great manager I ever met who, while a happy-go-lucky college student, first whiteboard I had ever seen. Organized to a hilt, giving out instructions," recalled Jim Smith, Lhota's college friend.

He helped run the student president campaign of his friend Dave Ralston. Friends say the issues Joe honed in on were typically town-gown, like dorm life.

"Joe was in favor of 24 hour inter-visitation between men and women in the dorm rooms," Smith said.

Before deciding to run for mayor, the last time Joe Lhota ran for elected office was actually here at Georgetown. He ran for the student senate in 1975. And he won with just 211 votes.

His platform was printed in the school newspaper. He called for an investigation into the campus bar.

But his attention did gravitate off campus.

Lhota interned for then-freshman congressman Bill Cohen, a Republican from Maine who was one of the first to break with his party to vote to impeach Nixon.

"He was on the House committee, judiciary committee, when they started the Watergate hearings. I remember sitting in those hearings and I didn't realize how historic all of that was going on," Lhota said.

And he went once to watch Barry Goldwater, a conservative senator from Arizona, debate on the Senate floor.

Post-college Lhota turned back to business.

He came back to New York and was a municipal banker for 14 years.

"Joe was one of those guys who was primarily a financial guy, and then really knew his politics," said Brad Higgins, Lhota's former colleague at First Boston.

During his tenure he helped secure the financing for New York's third water tunnel.

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