Anthony Weiner and Joe Lhota Recount a Conversation Differently

Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota. (Photo: Getty)
Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota. (Photo: Getty)

Long before either candidate had jumped into the mayors race, Republican Joe Lhota suggested that Anthony Weiner run for city comptroller, the ex-Congressman claimed late Tuesday. But Mr. Lhota’s camp quickly disputed the account.

“He was pushing me to run for comptroller,” Mr. Weiner said of Mr. Lhota, who is now the leading candidate on the Republican side.

The tidbit was one of several to emerge as Mr. Weiner traveled home from a candidates’ forum in Harlem on the subway with reporters tagging along for the ride. The near-constant entourage has come to define the first week of Mr. Weiner’s candidacy, with cameras and reporters trailing Mr. Weiner almost everywhere he  goes.

Mr. Weiner said the subject was broached casually at a breakfast with Mr. Lhota months ago.

“We were just kind of ruminating about things and he says ‘You know what? You should run for comptroller. It’s a really great job, whatever it is.’ And I certainly hadn’t said I was considering running for mayor. We were just kind of talking about what a good job that was,” Mr. Weiner explained.

“It wasn’t like, ‘You know, I’ve got a big plan for you,'” he said, switching into his best scheming Lhota impression, which sounded a bit like Oscar the Grouch. “It’s not like he’s like, ‘You should run, I’m going to be your finance director and everything.’ We were just ruminating about stuff and he said that would be a good fit, you know, you do some good work.”

It was advice, he said, that was also floated by many “consultant types,” although Mr. Weiner said he made it clear from early on he had no interest in the job.

But the account was quickly disputed by Mr. Lhota’s spokeswoman, who said the two had had lunch together–not breakfast– and that Mr. Weiner had been the one to suggest the run.

“Anthony expressed his desire to run for comptroller and Joe’s response was that if he still thought he had something to contribute to public life than he should try and let the voters decide,” she said.

Of course, if Mr. Weiner wins the Democratic primary, he could wind up facing Mr. Lhota in the general election.

In the meantime, Mr. Weiner revealed that he’s been studying his Democratic rivals’ debate performances via YouTube clips and is planning a major policy speech “in the not-too-distant future” about “non-controllable costs” in the city’s budget.

“I am surprised that no one else sees that as an opening to do some big thoughts,” said Mr. Weiner, offering a rare criticism of his opponents, about whom he’s generally tried to avoid talking. Still, he refrained from other shots, saying he was generally impressed by their performance. “It isn’t easy. I mean it ain’t coal mining. But it ain’t easy.”

And despite conventional wisdom, Mr. Weiner said he isn’t discounting the chance that a Republican could win the race–or that he might be able to win the primary with more than 40 percent of the vote, eliminating the need for a runoff.

“I don’t know. I’m certainly gonna try,” he explained.

He also had a comical encounter with a an inebriated-sounding man who identified himself as “Teshon” and was unimpressed with Mr. Weiner’s outfit of gray pants and a mustard-colored, checkered tie.

“It’s like … a herringbone. You can do that,” Mr. Weiner said pointing to his pants, as Teshon wrinkled his nose, disapprovingly. “What would you do here? What would you do here?” Mr. Weiner asked in earnest.

“I would go with something more– … not that,” the man panned with an angry laugh, before he exited the train.

Anthony Weiner and Joe Lhota Recount a Conversation Differently