Lhota addresses diners, Republican rivals

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The first time Joe Lhota appeared as a mayoral candidate, it was at a candidate forum in East New York.

Yesterday he was in considerably more Republican territory, talking to customers at the Annadale Diner on the southern part of Staten Island.

Dressed in a dark blue suit, with a crisp white shirt and red tie, Lhota engaged four or five tables of casually dressed, mostly older white customers in conversation. Lhota was accompanied by Assemblyman Joseph Borelli, a recent endorser, and tracked by a casually dressed cameraman from Fox 5 as well as the Staten Island Advance's lead political reporter, Tom Wrobleski.

I only saw one patron, a woman, who seemed bothered by Lhota and the attention he brought to her table. (Then again, I got there late.) She smiled at Lhota, shook his hand, wished him well, and signaled she was done with being courted.

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Outside, Lhota and Borelli fielded questions from the cameraman ("what do you think are the most important things?") and Lhota responded by talking fairly generically about education and job creation.

The cameraman than asked Lhota about Bill Bratton, the former NYPD commissioner who has said he'd be interested in his old job again if it were offered to him.

Lhota, whose old boss, Rudy Giuliani, pushed Bratton out of office, said Bratton would be a natural person to consider, but that it was way too early to speculate about specific hires.

I asked Lhota how he'd counteract the robocalls and reportedly soon-to-be-released television ads from billionaire businessman John Catsimatidis, his main Republican rival.

"I'll counteract it by talking about issues," Lhota said, adding, "I'm not concerned about somebody spending their money to get their name recognition up."

Responding, without directly engaging, was Lhota's apparent tactic.

I also asked Lhota about Adolfo Carrion Jr., who is formally kicking off his campaign tonight in the Bronx, and will be seeking the Republican nomination in part based on the notion that he'll be able to appeal to Hispanic voters.

"Ethnic politics is always important in this city," Lhota said. 

He went on to call Carrion "an established person," and said he looked forward to debating him in November.