Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota avoided the campaign trail Wednesday in deference to the 9/11 anniversary but issued a statement lauding the counterterrorism record of NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, who would be replaced by either of his prospective Democratic opponents.
"Through the exemplary leadership of Commissioner Kelly and effective counterterrorism strategies, we have successfully thwarted more than a dozen planned attacks on our city," said Lhota, who was a deputy mayor to Rudy Giuliani, in his statement on the anniversary.
Lhota won the Republican primary Tuesday. Bill de Blasio led the Democrats, but it was unclear whether he had enough votes to avoid a runoff with Bill Thompson. Both of the Democrats have said they would not keep Kelly, who came under criticism during the Democratic primary campaign over the NYPD's stop-and-frisk policies and surveillance of Muslims.
The Republicans Lhota beat -- billionaire grocer John Catsimatidis and George McDonald, who runs a nonprofit that helps the poor -- were considering endorsing Lhota, though no decisions have been made, their respective spokesmen said.
McDonald and Lhota have plans to "get together and talk," McDonald spokesman David Catalfamo said.
Catsimatidis, who attacked Lhota during the primary as an insensitive technocrat, "basically wants to sleep on things," said his spokesman, Rob Ryan. "He's going to explore his options."
Catsimatidis has not decided whether to walk away from the other party lines he already has on the November ballot, such as the Liberal Party and the Catsimatidis-created Jobs, Jobs, Jobs party.
Even if Lhota secures those former rivals' endorsements, he'll face a steep climb: New York City has six registered Democrats for every Republican.
Lhota will also have to step up his fundraising, which the self-funded Catsimatidis late last month derided as "dismal." So far, Lhota has raised just $2 million -- less than half of de Blasio's and Thompson's hauls of more than $4.5 million apiece.
Republicans voiced eagerness for de Blasio to become the Democratic nominee because that, in their view, would make the clearest case for Lhota's leadership.
"I think the furthest left that the Democratic candidate is, the better it is for the Republican candidate," said John Faso, a onetime Republican candidate for governor.
Brendan Quinn, former executive director of the state Republican party, said a de Blasio campaign catchphrase -- that New York's income inequality amounts to a "tale of two cities" -- could backfire in Lhota's favor. "The class warfare that de Blasio has been espousing, that helped him win the Democratic primary, is going to create problems for him in the general election," Quinn said.