On the first full day of a two-candidate campaign for mayor, it was a situation of opposites attracting.
Republican candidate Joe Lhota met both with the leaders of unions that he could possibly end up being at loggerheads with if he’s elected, as well as with liberal activist Rev. Al Sharpton, while Democrat Bill de Blasio received an endorsement from a former rival who had in the past called him untrustworthy. Both men were in oppositional company, but both made clear that they saw strong advantages to courting the opposition.
In Lhota’s case, he met Tuesday with leaders of District Council 37, the public employees union, whose 300,000 members are working under expired contracts, and have been for years. The next mayor will have to be very skilled in working out new city contracts, and Lhota was terse in talking about his meeting with DC37 leaders.
“I was asked by the union to not discuss what we said, and I will respect that,” he said outside of the union’s Soho headquarters. He would talk, however, about his scheduled meeting with Al Sharpton, the civil rights leader and talk show host who Lhota’s former boss, Rudy Giuliani, refused to meet with. Ever.
“I’m meeting with him,” Lhota said, “because I’m running to be the mayor of all New York.”
When PIX11 News asked him to compare his choosing to meet Sharpton, in contrast to the refusal by Giuliani, who is an adviser and who has made a campaign commercial for the Republican candidate, Lhota said that any comparisons of him to past mayors was “negativity.”
However, he welcomed the chance to compare himself to his Democratic rival, Bill de Blasio. “I’m the only candidate who’ll be ready by day one,” Lhota told PIX11 News, adding that he’d been deputy mayor and budget director under Giuliani. There will be “no on the job training,” Lhota said.
In the interest of fairness, PIX11 News asked Bill de Blasio to respond to Lhota’s comments. “The most important issue for the next mayor is, which side are you on?” he answered, and said that he was on the side of New Yorkers who he felt had been underrepresented under the Bloomberg Administration.
De Blasio’s statements came while he was on the steps of City Hall, where he received the endorsement of Christine Quinn, the city council speaker who, when she had been running for mayor days before, said that the man she now supports can’t be trusted. Now, however, she had a very different message.
“To sum it up, we need a Democrat,” Quinn said, to cheers and supportive laughter from the dozens of union members who had joined the two former rivals for the press conference in which she announced her support.
De Blasio elaborated on his comment about the election being about being on different sides, and said that his interest was for “who you’re thinking about every day, who you’re here to serve.” He added that when it comes to representation of everyone in the city, “people will see a big difference between me and Mr. Lhota.”
For his part, Lhota was apparently counting on his reaching out to union leaders and a major civil rights leader to show that he’s different from the former mayor to whom he remains close, Giuliani. However, the civil rights leader, Sharpton, made clear that his meeting with the Republican candidate Tuesday was by no means an endorsement.
Sharpton had also declined to endorse any candidate in the Democratic primary.