Brooklyn Conservatives Impressed by Lhota’s Debate Performance

The Brooklyn Conservative Party's debate watch party.
The Brooklyn Conservative Party’s debate watch party.

Although Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota’s performance in his first major general election debate was panned by some critics, conservative activists gathered in Brooklyn gave him rave reviews.

As Bill de Blasio, the Democratic front-runner in the race, repeatedly pounded away at his wonkier opponent, the Republican and Conservative Party members gathered at Frank’s Pizzeria felt, against the odds, emboldened.

In their estimation, Mr. Lhota won the night.

“I was pleasantly surprised–I think a lot of people are,” said Angela Olsen, a Republican district leader from Staten Island, after the showdown was over. “I think they realized he had such a definitive platform and that’s what you need to run the city.”

Nestled in Dyker Heights–where pockets of the graying Republicans and moderates who swept Rudy Giuliani into power two decades ago still reside–the pizzeria debate-watch party brought together a handful of New Yorkers who categorically reject Mr. de Blasio’s liberal vision, even as polls show them in the minority.

Equally upbeat and anxious, they watched Mr. de Blasio and Mr. Lhota trade barb after barb, hoping the Republican’s right-leaning platform would bleed through. They gnawed on pizza slices and sipped Diet Coke, intensely absorbing the broadcast from the boxy black television plumped overhead.

When Mr. Lhota vigorously defended charter schools, the crowd broke into cheers.

Mr. Lhota’s declaration that “charter schools are public schools” particularly resonated with Jerry Kassar, the chairman of the Brooklyn Conservative Party. “Yeah!” he exclaimed. “Somebody finally said it!”

Mr. Kassar was less impressed with Mr. de Blasio’s declarations. Charges of “bullshit,” came when Mr. de Blasio asserted that Mr. Lhota was no different from right-wing national Republicans. “That’s coming from the guy who went to see the Sandinistas and honeymooned in Cuba,” Mr. Kassar charged.

Ross Brady, a high-ranking member of the Conservative Party, had a similar take on Mr. de Blasio’s lefty brand.

“De Blasio is for taking money, wherever and whatever it is, and redistributing it,” he remarked as Mr. de Blasio and Mr. Lhota tangled over affordable housing.

The otherwise genial bunch later cheered and clapped when Mr. de Blasio, trying to deal a knock-out blow to Mr. Lhota, accurately stated that Mr. Lhota had sought the endorsement of the Conservative Party–a badge of honor for the party members watching.

“He wasn’t just on the attack and generalizing like de Blasio was. I think it was a very good debate for Lhota,” said Larry Schneier, secretary of the Brooklyn Young Republican Club. “I’m not sure if there were any knock-out punches, but he definitely scored points and did what he needed to do.” Brooklyn Conservatives Impressed by Lhota’s Debate Performance