New York mayoral candidate Joseph Lhota, a Republican, used a speech before hundreds of business leaders to portray Democratic frontrunner Bill de Blasio as a proponent of bloated government whose “extreme” positions won’t reduce income inequality.
At an event hosted by the Association for a Better New York today in Manhattan, Lhota, 59, said voters have a “stark choice” and that he’s the real fiscal conservative, a rejoinder to de Blasio’s comment to the group last week that he was.
Lhota called for expanding charter schools, cutting taxes and promoting high-paying jobs in industries such as technology. That’s how government can help the poor escape the safety net instead of remaining caught in it, Lhota said.
“My opponent’s plans are going to hurt the very people that he wants to help,” Lhota said in his 30-minute remarks. “So if he wants to go toe to toe with me on inequality, so if he wants to go toe to toe with me on affordability or about understanding how to make ends meet, I welcome it. I’ve lived it and I’m the only candidate in this race who has the experience to take it on.”
Vying to lead a city where Democratic voters outnumber Republicans 6-to-1, Lhota has highlighted his agreement with de Blasio on abortion rights, same-sex marriage and the liberalization of marijuana laws. His speech today, along with three televised debates that begin next week, offer Lhota chances to show where they differ as he tries to chip away at his opponent’s 50 percentage-point lead in the polls.
Lhota’s first lesson in budgeting came during childhood watching his parents “scraping by” paycheck to paycheck, he said. That helped him when he served as budget director under former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and taught him “respect for those people who are trying to lift themselves up into the middle class.”
Most recently, the candidate ran the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the region’s subways, busses and commuter trains.
“My record is clear, my leadership is tested and my policies are proven,” he said. “In the end, my vision is not of a city that merely survives, but of a city that soars.”
Lhota last addressed the civic group in June about education. Today he revisited many of the policy proposals that dominated that speech and called the topic “the civil-rights issue of our generation.”
Like de Blasio, Lhota said he supports universal pre-kindergarten and continued mayoral control of the school system. He also pledged to boost funding for teacher training and said he backs allowing welfare recipients to count remedial courses toward work requirements. His support for expanding the number of charter schools and continuing the policy of closing failing schools make him the real progressive in the race, he said.
Lhota drew applause from the audience after mentioning his support for the New York Yankees -- de Blasio grew up in Massachusetts rooting for the Boston Red Sox -- and when he said he attended school in the Bronx instead of an “elite” school in Cambridge, as de Blasio did. Lhota failed to mention that his Bronx school years ended in seventh grade, when his family moved to Lindenhurst on Long Island.
The speech came less than a week after de Blasio addressed the association and called himself a “fiscal conservative” while pledging to use the mayoralty to fight economic inequality. Yesterday, de Blasio revised that label, saying “fiscally responsible progressive” was a better fit.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, 71, founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP, will finish his third term Dec. 31 and is barred from seeking a fourth four-year term.
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