Lhota Looks Forward to Debate With ‘Radical’ de Blasio

Joe Lhota talks to reporters this afternoon on the Upper East Side.

Joe Lhota talks to reporters this afternoon on the Upper East Side.

Republican mayoral contender Joe Lhota congratulated Bill de Blasio on securing his party’s expected nomination this afternoon and said he’s looking forward to a more mature and vigorous debate.

After weeks of being attacked by his ex-Republican challenger billionaire John Catsimatidis–most recently for saying he would not have shut down subway service to save two stray kittens on the tracks–Mr. Lhota said he was ready to go one-on-one against a candidate who has a dramatically different vision for the City of New York.

“My opponent in the primary wanted to talk about me, not talk about what he wanted to do. I think my opponent in the general election really wants to talk about his vision for New York and I want to talk about my vision for New York. And I do think it will be a much more mature debate,” he told reporters at a press availability in Central Park on the Upper East Side.

Mr. Lhota, a socially liberal, fiscally conservative former deputy mayor under Rudy Giuliani, went on describe “a stark difference” between himself and Mr. de Blasio, whose centerpiece proposal is a tax hike on the rich to pay for universal pre-kindergarten.

“I can’t over-emphasize how I’m looking forward to having a vigorous debate about the issues as we move forward,” he said. “We’re going to see different points of view–very divergent different points of view–about the direction that the city wants to go in.”

And he insisted–despite his praise of Mayor Michael Bloomberg–that both candidates are proposing changes to the status quo.

“I think Bill de Blasio’s change is radical. My change is practical. It’s straightforward. It’s to be able to build on what we have done, not tear down what has happened,” he explained, telling reporters the most important change he would implement would be “going out to the communities throughout the entire city of New York and listening to them.”

Mr. Lhota further said Mr. de Blasio’s frequent use of the phrase “tale of two cities” was an improper way to talk about income inequality in the five boroughs.

“I believe that ‘the tale of two cities’ is a divisive device that he’s using. A divide and conquer strategy. It’s class warfare,” charged Mr. Lhota, arguing that new job and affordable housing programs–not divisive rhetoric–are needed to address income inequality.

Mr. Lhota, who faces an uphill battle in a city here Democrats outnumber Republicans 6-1, also commended Democrat Bill Thompson, who conceded the race today.

“I feel for him,” he said of Mr. Thompson, “but nonetheless, this is the way electoral politics works.”