Joe Lhota took his mayoral campaign to Manhattan’s Chinatown yesterday, in search of votes to expand his fledgling Republican coalition.
Unlike the mad scrambles for black and Latino voters seen during primary season, few mayoral candidates focused extensively on selling themselves to the Asian community, which most observers expected to be easily captured by City Comptroller John Liu, who was vying to become the first Asian-American mayor.
But with Mr. Liu defeated, the community, which leans Democratic but not overwhelmingly so, could be in play. And Mr. Lhota, trailing Democratic front-runner Bill de Blasio by around 50 points in public polling, certainly needs every vote he can get.
“The reason why I’m here is because this community–this very tight knit community–is one that understands how important it is to have a government that’s growing and a government that is serving all the people,” Mr. Lhota said yesterday during a visit to the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, a Chinatown civic group. “You have to go into every single community in this city regardless of whether they’re yellow or brown or black or white. It doesn’t matter; you need to go into those communities.”
Others tried to stress Asian ties to the Republican community.
“About 20 years ago, there was a mayor called Giuliani and he won the election because the Asian vote came out,” argued Peter Lau, chairman of the New York State Asian Coalition. “If you look at the percentage of votes that he won 20 years ago, it was because of people like you.”
According to campaign aides, the visit was Mr. Lhota’s fourth stop in an Asian-American neighborhood since last month’s primary. Mr. de Blasio, who has radically scaled back his campaign schedule since winning the primary, has not publicly visited any such neighborhoods since he won his party’s nomination. Still, Mr. Lhota faces an uphill battle: Mr. de Blasio ran a strong second to Mr. Liu in Asian-majority assembly districts during the primary.
During his stop, Mr. Lhota, trailed by a gaggle of English and Chinese-language media, toured several businesses along Mott Street, including two gift shops and a chic eyeglasses store. As rain began to fall, Mr. Lhota ducked into a motley toy and gift store where he eyed a mechanical frog flopping in water and $10 shoes. He chatted with several small business owners and engaged in a few friendly–if stiff–conversations.
“Anything here you don’t sell?” Mr. Lhota asked, gazing at the walls of hats, fabrics, toys and various marked-down knickknacks.
“No,” the owner said with a smile. “I got everything. You want to come and choose?”
“I’ll come back later, I need a new cover for my phone,” Mr. Lhota said. After examining the discount shoes, he shuffled with his aides back into the drizzle.