Topping the list of challenges facing Joe Lhota is his own party’s unity and support. While rival Bill de Blasio has methodically pulled his former rivals and their supporters onto his bandwagon, Lhota has had less success in uniting Republicans. Republicans are, of course, vastly outnumbered in New York City and even a unified party falls far short of what Lhota needs to win, but it’s a basic building block that Lhota has not yet put into place.
Since the primary de Blasio has received the public support of his top three Democratic primary rivals (Bill Thompson, Chris Quinn and John Liu), while also receiving the endorsement of three Democratic county organizations (Bronx, Queens and Manhattan) that did not support him in the primary. In contrast, Lhota has not received the endorsement of either of his primary rivals John Catsimatidis or George McDonald, and has only received a few additional public endorsements, with George Pataki, State Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos and New York County Chairman Dan Isaacs among them. Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro (who is a Conservative Party, not Republican Party, member and who endorsed Christine Quinn in the primary) has also endorsed Lhota.
Queens County is a stark illustration of Lhota’s challenge. The County Republican organization supported John Catsimatidis in the primary and appears unlikely to actively support Lhota. It’s split into two factions, one led by Chairman Phil Ragusa (supporting Catsimatidis) and the other composed of a mix of people bitterly opposed to Ragusa, including Council Member Eric Ulrich and former council member Tom Ognibene, as well as the now infamous John Haggerty and his brother Bart. Ragusa appears to have just won re-election as chairman over challenger, and former congressman, Bob Turner, whom Lhota supported. At a Friday press conference, Politicker’s Ross Barkan (who closely follows and reports on Queens politics) asked Lhota about the leadership battle, and Lhota responded with the following harsh critique of “Comrade Ragusa”. Based on Lhota’s comments, it appears that Queens County Republican Committee support for Lhota is, shall we say, not imminent.
(Note that the questions were at a press conference held before the vote for county chairman was completed. It’s subsequently been unofficially reported that Ragusa won re-election in Friday’s vote.)