Joe Lhota Takes a Whimsical Nighttime Tour Through Queens

Joe Lhota tours Kew Gardens Hills last night.
Joe Lhota tours Kew Gardens Hills last night.

Joe Lhota stumped last night in an Orthodox Jewish enclave of Queens, more whimsical than prickly in the final days of a long and bitter mayoral campaign.

Mr. Lhota weaved through a handful of Main Street eateries with ex-Congressman Bob Turner, meeting voters after Shabbos in Kew Gardens Hills. Despite trailing his rival, Bill de Blasio, by around 40 points in various polls, Mr. Lhota was at ease, swapping jokes with his aides, reporters and the many locals noshing on their meals.

The middle-aged Lhota even unearthed a surprising fan base: teenage girls, many not quite of voting age.

“My teacher talks about you all the time. We’re learning about you,” one teen, eating sushi at a long table with friends, gushed as Mr. Lhota approached.

“The teacher talks about me?” he asked back.

“Yeah,” several shouted in unison.

Mr. Lhota posed for pictures with several young fans throughout the night–a rarity for Mr. Lhota, who usually piques more interest among the graying fans of his old boss, former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. But like other Orthodox Jewish enclaves, Kew Gardens Hills is a fertile ground of Republican voters and general political interest.

When the Republican and his coterie waded into Chopped and Pressed, a sandwich shop, a group of teens burst into applause and begged for pictures with Mr. Lhota.

“No selfies, I don’t do selfies,” Mr. Lhota quipped as a young girl wielded her camera phone. “A former congressman here did selfies.”

The neighborhood once belonged to scandal-scarred Anthony Weiner’s congressional district.

“There you go, there’s your quote,” Mr. Lhota said, turning to Politicker.

Mr. Lhota also marveled at a gargantuan slice of baked ziti pizza at one of the three pizza joints he visited during the night.

“Have you even seen anything like that? That’s the biggest slice I’ve ever seen in my life. No carbs,” he laughed. “It’s all carbs! That’s a whole meal.”

Joe Lhota poses with some young fans.
Joe Lhota poses with some young fans.

Politicker later grilled Mr. Lhota, a self-avowed foodie, about his favorite meals of the campaign trail. At first, he was stumped–there may have been too many to name. Pizza, due to its inherent availability, didn’t quite make the cut.

“When I go to an Italian bakery, the pignoli nut cookies,” he offered.

Is there any food he outright dislikes?

“My greatest weakness is, I like all food,” he admitted. “Maybe there’s something occasionally I’d prefer not to eat, but I’ll eat it.”

“Certain vegetables,’ he added gravely.

Later, Mr. Turner, appearing as a subdued surrogate for Mr. Lhota, predicted the Republican would eke out a two-point upset victory against Mr. de Blasio, but acknowledged the odds were still very long for the former deputy mayor.

“It look a long time to get the word out and for the people to connect the issues with the candidates,” Mr. Turner told Politicker. “The level of uninformed voters is appalling but they’re slowly catching up. I hope we have enough time.”

Joe Lhota Takes a Whimsical Nighttime Tour Through Queens