News networks have called NYC's Republican mayoral primary for Joe Lhota, who has beaten grocery-store owner and billionaire John Catsimatidis. With 89% of the precincts reporting at 11:12 p.m. according to WNYC, Lhota holds an 11-point lead over Catsimatidis. This was a widely expected result and will allow the Bronx native to attempt to prolong the Republicans' 20-year hold on City Hall.
Lhota has a long background in public service. Most recently, he was the head of the Metropolitan Transit Authority and gained widespread praise for the agency's performance during Hurricane Sandy. Most of the city's subway system was up and running a week after the storm, and weeks after the event, a vast majority of New Yorkers across all demographic groups rated the agency's performance "good" or "excellent."
Lhota is also a veteran of the Giuliani administration, having served as the former mayor's budget chief and deputy mayor for operations. Giuliani has taken to the campaign trail to stump for his former employee, who largely shares Giuliani's political profile — he's relatively liberal on social issues (he is in favor of legalizing gay marriage and marijuana use) but is known as a budget hawk and someone who's tough on law-and-order issues.
The result of the Republican primary was never really in doubt, but it was an entertaining contest nonetheless. The rivalry between Lhota and "Cats" sometimes got nasty:
But the last couple weeks were largely consumed by the debate over the so-called "subway kitties," who held up traffic on the city's B and Q lines for over an hour on August 29. Catsimatidis wrote a lovely poem about the cats, but Lhota insisted that he would not have stopped subway traffic for over an hour in order to save the lives of two animals.
Lhota certainly will not go into the general election as a favorite — but it would be unwise for Democrats to write him off entirely.