MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota Stepping Down to Run for Mayor, Report Says

By Jill Colvin on December 18, 2012 7:45pm | Updated on December 18, 2012 8:54pm

NEW YORK CITY — Joseph Lhota is planning to step down as chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to mount a run for mayor, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

Lhota is expected to officially resign Friday to announce his candidacy on the Republican ticket less than a year after taking office. He has already informed Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration of his plans, the paper said.

Speculation over Lhota's potential run has been swirling in recent weeks, as Republicans have scrambled to find a viable candidate capable of taking on the strong Democratic field, in a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans 6 to 1.

Lhota, a former deputy mayor under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, has been widely hailed for his performance getting the subways back up and running after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.

MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg declined to comment on Lhota's plans Tuesday evening, referring all questions to Lhota.

Lhota could not immediately be reached for comment.

The MTA board has yet to receive notification of Lhota's impending departure, an MTA official said.

Lhota's presence is widely expected to shake up a contest that some had already written off as a homerun for the winner of the Democratic primary.

Known for his frankness and occasional temper, Lhota previously served as executive vice president of the Madison Square Garden Company, giving him credentials many in the business community had been seeking.

However, a recent Quinnipiac poll found that Lhota would lose badly to an unnamed Democrat, with just 9 percent of the vote, versus 60 percent for the unnamed Democrat, if the election were held this fall.

And while New Yorkers may have appreciated the MTA's response to Superstorm Sandy, Lhota's approval ratings had plenty of room for improvement, with just 38 percent of those polled saying they approved of the way he was handling his job, versus 45 percent who disapproved. (Even among Republicans, approval was low at just 50 percent.)

Several others candidates have also recently announced plans to mount runs on the GOP ticket, including former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion Jr., Manhattan Media CEO Tom Allon and George McDonald, the founder and president of The Doe Fund, all of whom recently left the Democratic Party so they could run as Republicans.

Supermarket magnate John Catsimatidis also filed paperwork earlier this month to explore a potential run.

On the Democratic side, likely candidates include City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, City Comptroller John Liu and former City Comptroller Bill Thompson.

Under state law, Lhota cannot run for election unless he steps down from his current job.

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