Georgetown alum vies for NYC Mayorship, may be thwarted by kittens
Against the rising tide of domestic inflation in the 1970s, there came a crusader on the Hilltop in the form of Joseph Lhota (MSB ’76.) Vying for the student senate in 1975, these being the dark, dark days before GUSA, Lhota invoked his conservative hero, Barry Goldwater, as he sought to put an end to soaring costs—namely, of beer and pizza at the campus pub. The New York Times captured some of the soaring rhetoric of the 1975 Lhota campaign, quoting one pamphlet as saying, “[the pub] has obviously lost all sense of fiscal control.” Lhota won handily. Can you say MSBro?
Lhota declined to capitalize on his political momentum at Georgetown, settling instead into a career in investment banking after graduating from Harvard Business School in 1980. It wasn’t until 1994 that Lhota once more ventured into the political fray, joining the administration of New York City Major Rudy Guliani by appointment. He returned to the private sector after 2001, only to re-enter to the limelight ten years later as chairman of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, the commuter rail service that all New Yorkers love to hate. In his capacity as MTA chief, Lhota earned the ire of many by raising fares, but the praise of many more for his remarkable crisis management in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
In January of 2013, Lhota, now aged 59, launched his second-ever bid for political office: this time, for mayor of New York City and its 8.34 million inhabitants. He clinched the Republican nomination in early September, and is now squaring off against the Democratic candidate Bill de Blasio. Considering he is 38 years out of practice with campaigning, things haven’t gone quite so smoothly.
First came a gaffe that might best be described as the kitten incident. On August 29, subway service was temporarily suspended in parts of Brooklyn so that two stray kittens could be rescued from the tracks. The next day, Lhota’s campaign issued the following statement to the New York Post: “It’s not the decision of the mayor, it’s up to the MTA, but [Joe] would not [have] shut down the line,” thereby offending confused kitties and everyone who likes them. Opponents and pundits alike leapt upon this with considerable glee, leading Lhota to declare, “I’m not the anti-kitten candidate.” The damage had already been done. More recently, Lhota went all Joe McCarthy on his opponent de Blasio, accusing him of a “class warfare strategy” that is “directly out of the Marxist playbook” on account of his links with the Sandinista rebels.
Despite these apparent slip-ups, Lhota may be a serious candidate. For a member of the GOP, he is surprisingly progressive. His platform is pro-choice, pro-LGBTQ rights, and pro-legalization of marijuana. His track record in the private sector and at the MTA is impressive, and he is firm in his economic convictions: Lhota is a disciple of supply-side economics before it was cool. However, his affiliation with Republican right, nominal as it may be, is universally predicted to be his downfall in one of the most left-leaning cities in the U.S. With current polls projecting his defeat by a margin of as many as 50 percentage points, Lhota’s lifetime political record will almost inevitably end up being one for two.
Photo: MTA via Flickr.