Joseph Lhota, the Republican nominee for New York mayor, met with the Reverend Al Sharpton to talk over education and housing policies as well as the law-enforcement method known as “stop and frisk.”
“I’m here because dialogue is needed in the city of New York,” Lhota, 58, told reporters after the 25-minute private session last night in Harlem at the National Action Network, a nonprofit civil rights organization Sharpton started in 1991. “I believe in an open door policy, I believe a mayor should communicate with all of New York,” the candidate said.
Lhota met with the black powerbroker and fixture of New York politics as part of a strategy to peel away voters from Democratic nominee Bill de Blasio, 52. Lhota also met yesterday with District Council 37, the city’s largest public-employee union, only to see its leaders endorse de Blasio.
By sitting down with Sharpton, Lhota broke with his old boss, former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a Republican who shunned the activist while in City Hall.
Sharpton acknowledged that he and Lhota have divergent views on subjects such as stop and frisk, and said the candidate didn’t seek his endorsement.
“You can disagree without being disagreeable,” Sharpton said. “I would hope that this fall campaign is around issues and policies of all New Yorkers to look for solutions and to look for how we make it a better city.”
Lhota said the meeting was the first of what he hopes will be many discussions with Sharpton and members of his organization. Saying he believes there’s no problem that’s “not negotiable,” the candidate added: “I will take that with me into City Hall.”
Sharpton said the meeting reflects his effort to see that after a winner emerges in the election, “we’re not dealing with venom, but we’re dealing with the future of this city.”
Lhota’s trip to Harlem followed his endorsement from former Governor George Pataki and New York Senate Majority Co-Leader Dean Skelos, both Republicans who backed supermarket billionaire John Catsimatidis in the Sept. 10 mayoral primary. Skelos and Pataki are “known for their ability to win crossover votes from Democrats and independents,” Lhota’s campaign said in a statement.
“Lhota has been the kind of leader who not only brings people together, but he keeps them together to get the job done,” Pataki said in the statement. “Joe will reach out to all New Yorkers with a shared vision of opportunity and optimism that will unite the city to overcome the challenges we face.”
De Blasio Leads
Democrats hold a 6-to-1 edge in voter registrations heading into the Nov. 5 election, yet haven’t controlled City Hall for 20 years. In his bid to persuade New Yorkers to elect him, Lhota has said that turning to a Democrat will return the city to the high crime, weak economic growth and fiscal decay of the 1980s.
De Blasio led Lhota 65 percent to 22 percent in a survey of 930 registered voters the Marist Institute for Public Opinion in Poughkeepsie, New York, released yesterday. The Sept. 15-16 poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.
Lhota’s municipal experience includes eight years as a top City Hall aide to Giuliani and, most recently, his 12-month tenure leading the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the biggest U.S. transit system.
De Blasio, a former City Council member who was elected to the watchdog post of public advocate in 2009, was a guest on Sharpton’s MSNBC television show last week. He has spent months decrying the harmful effects of rising income inequality among the city’s residents, a theme that Lhota has called divisive.
District Council 37, with 125,000 members and 50,000 retirees, praised the Democrat’s focus on income inequality, in its statement backing him. The union said in the statement that de Blasio would halt outsourcing city work to contractors and that, as mayor, he “will understand that a fairly compensated municipal workforce is the foundation for a secure and thriving taxpaying middle class.”
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, 71, founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP, has said he won’t back either candidate. The independent was barred by law from seeking a fourth four-year term.
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