New York Conservatives endorse Joe Lhota, their ‘glimmer of hope’

Lhota and Long at City Hall. (Dana Rubinstein)
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"This is a not a race about social issues," said New York State Conservative Party chairman Michael Long today standing in front of City Hall.

Long's Conservative Party endorsed Lhota for mayor today, ensuring the former M.T.A. chairman a ballot line in this year's election and brushing aside differences on, among other things, gay rights and abortion.

Now, in the event Lhota loses the Republican Party primary, he will still be able to run for mayor as a conservative, something he said today, when asked, that he is committed to doing.

"I am," Lhota said. "I will be running in November on the Conservative Party line. But I think it's a hypothetical question. I will win the Republican nomination."

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The Conservative Party's endorsement of the former M.T.A. chairman and Rudy Giuliani aide comes despite significant policy differences between the two.

Long fought against same-sex marriage in New York State, while Lhota supports at both the state and national level. Long opposes marijuana legalization, which Lhota supports, and abortion rights.

"Joe and I have talked at great length on all the issues, and it's very clear that there are differences between the two of us," said Long today. "This race is really about—I can say this honestly as a dad who has nine children and seventeen grandchildren and one great-grandchildren, all of them live in the City of New York—this is about the future of the City of New York. So the issues that Joe possesses on fiscal responsibility and the understanding that we need to keep security and safety as an absolute must in the city, to move forward on education, there's only one candidate who possesses all those views.

"There's only one candidate in the race that gives us as the Daily News rightfully said, a 'glimmer of hope' for the future of the City New York," he said.

Why not supermarket and oil magnate John Catsimatidis, an aggressive giver who has secured the support of multiple Republican Party officials?

"John made no move to ask for the Conservative Party," said Long. "And on top of all that, he's recreating the Liberal Party of the City of New York."

The Conservative endorsement doesn't directly guarantee any critical number of votes in a city election, but it functions as an important signifier for many G.O.P. voters as they decide among the little-known candidates, in the absence of strong leadership at the city level in their own party. 

Giuliani, Lhota's old boss, won election as a "fusion" candidate with help from the Liberal Party, when that was still a serious thing.

UPDATE: David Catalfamo, an adviser to Republican candidate George McDonald, emails the following statement: "With all due respect, I'm confused today as to what the Conservative Party stands for? Apparently, George McDonald's opposition to higher tolls and taxes, retroactive raises & creating the model for modern welfare reform is not enough for the leadership of the party, but we expect it will be for the rank and file."

And Catsimatidis spokesman Rob Ryan (who, like Catalfamo, used to work for former governor and regular Conservative Party endorsee George Pataki), had this to say:

"Catsimatidis spokesperson Rob Ryan said, "Today, Joe Lhota joined the ranks of the Reverend Stephen Christopher and Terence Gray; recent Conservative Party candidates for Mayor that few remember. Unlike Joe Lhota, John Catsimatidis has never raised tolls, fares or taxes. John Catsimatidis will be a mayor for every New Yorker."