Democratic Horse Activists Ready to Back Lhota Over Quinn

Advocates want the city to ban horse-drawn carriages. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

Advocates want the city to ban horse-drawn carriages. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

A group of outspoken animal rights advocates said they’re now considering supporting Republican Joe Lhota for mayor, after the candidate vowed to get rid of horse-drawn carriages because of their smell.

New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets (NYCLASS), the anti-horse-drawn carriage that is one of the groups behind the anti-Christine Quinn political committee New York City Is Not for Sale, told Politicker Wednesday that the group is looking at endorsing Mr. Lhota in November if Ms. Quinn wins the Democratic nomination.

“If Quinn becomes the Democratic Nominee NYCLASS … would have to support Lhota,” the group’s Executive Director, Allie Feldman, said in a statement.

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is the only candidate so far to support an outright ban on the carriages, earning him loud applause at NYCLASS’s recent debate. Ms. Quinn, the Democratic front-runner, has long defended the industry, while pushing to make sure the animals are treated humanely. Bill Thompson and John Liu have been more critical, but have not voiced support for an outright ban.

Mr. Lhota made news Tuesday evening when he came out against the industry, which has become an unexpectedly hot-button issue in this year’s mayoral race.

“Quite honestly, there are ways to do this without horses. You can have carriages with motors in it if you want,” Mr. Lhota said on AM 970 yesterday when asked about the carriages, which critics are rife with abuse and safety hazards. But unlike advocates, Mr. Lhota’s biggest beef with the tourist traps is not their treatment, but their stench.

“The smell that they drop there, is unfortunate. The smell on Central Park South is also unfortunate,” he said. “I will get rid of the horses.” he vowed.

The news was welcomed by anti-carriage advocates looking for a candidate to support in the general election if Ms. Quinn wins the Democratic nomination in the highly-contested field. Ms. Feldman, who described herself as a life-long Democrat, said she had never voted for a Republican in her life, but said she would now consider doing so for Mr. Lhota.

“I am a lifelong Democrat and I would very, very strongly have to consider putting my political ideology aside to decide what is the best thing to do for our city’s animals,” she said. “I would very strongly consider supporting him. Very, very strongly consider it.”

She said many of her group’s 110,000 members have also expressed similar concerns.

“A lot of them are life-long, hard-core Democrats, but they have told me again and again that when it comes to this mayoral election, there’s too much at stake for them to support somebody just because they’re on the right party lane,” she said. “They’re willing to put that aside and consider voting for a Republican instead.”

She said she didn’t care that Mr. Lhota’s main beef with the carriages was the smell. “There’s many, many different reasons that people don’t want to have horses in Manhattan,” she said, pointing to complaints from motorists stuck in traffic behind horses or worries about the safety risks.

Another member of the group, Renee Gellatly, said she was “an absolute lifelong Democrat,” but would also “absolutely” vote for Mr. Lhota if it came down to him and Ms. Quin. But when pressed about whether she was 100% comfortable with Mr. Lhota given his stances on other issues like stop-and-frisk, she seemed less sure. “I definitely need to do much more review of who he is and what he stands for,” she said.

A spokesman for Ms. Quinn did not immediately respond for comment.