Tuesday, July 29, 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's Wife Served In Reagan Adminstration, Was A Fundraiser For Giuliani

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The final part of NY1's "The Contenders" series looks at Joseph Lhota's wife, Tamra, who is no stranger to politics. She worked in the Reagan administration and served as a fundraiser for Rudolph Giuliani's failed 1989 mayoral campaign. NY1's Courtney Gross filed the following report.

If it weren't for Tamra Lhota, her husband may never have entered politics.

In 1989, during Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's first bid for City Hall, which was unsuccessful, Tamra was a fundraiser.

"We all knew Joe back then as Tamra's husband," said former Deputy Mayor Bob Harding.

"I was very excited and interested in the fact that there was someone who really had a plan to transform the city, someone who could lead the city in a different direction than where it had been, and the fact that Rudy was a Republican was appealing," Tamra Lhota said.

It wasn't her first foray into politics. She served in the Reagan administration as a special assistant.

"For me, growing up in the family that I did, Republicans always stood for independence," she said. "Free market ideas. The opportunity to pursue your dreams."

During the Giuliani administration, she was tapped to run the precursor to the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City, using her fundraising skills to secure private cash for public programs.

She has personally donated more than $25,000 in the past decade to Republican campaigns, including John McCain's bid for president.

For her husband, Tamra has taken on a familiar role, remaining mostly behind the scenes.

"I love the fundraising component. I love working with donors," she said. "You're really asking people to invest in a candidate, invest in the future."

Unlike the starpower of his rival's children, Lhota's 22-year-old daughter Kathryn, who just graduated from his alma mater, Georgetown, is rarely seen on the campaign trail.

Tamra is reserved and soft-spoken, and at one point, studied to become a priest.

The Lhotas have lived on the same street in Brooklyn Heights for 25 years, so the campaign life is a change of pace.

"I've really enjoyed visiting senior centers and schools and being in different faith communities," Tamra Lhota said. "It's been great."

Including on their 25th wedding anniversary last month, when the two spent the night at the Bowery Mission handing out meals.

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