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Lhota Courts Sharpton, Hoping to Gain Traction With Black Voters

By Ben Fractenberg | September 17, 2013 9:43pm
 Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota met with Rev. Al Sharpton on Tuesday Sept. 17, 2013.
Joe Lhota meets with the Rev. Al Sharpton
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HARLEM — Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota courted the Rev. Al Sharpton Tuesday night, hoping to bridge the political chasm between the two created by his former boss, Rudy Giuliani.

The two men spent about 25 minutes having what Sharpton called a "cordial and candid" discussion around issues including stop-and-frisk and education at the National Action Network's headquarters on 145th Street. The two men stood together afterward for a press conference.

"I've always believed that you can disagree without being disagreeable," Sharpton said. "And I would hope that this fall campaign is around issues and policies of all New Yorkers to look for solutions and to look for how we make it a better city, and whoever wins or loses at the end of it that we are not dealing with venom, but we are dealing with the future of the city."

Lhota said he decided to meet with Sharpton because he "needs to listen to all communities."

He said he hoped to have further discussions with the Harlem activist.

Lhota, who a poll released Tuesday shows trails behind Democratic rival Bill de Blasio, desparately needs to get out from behind the shadow of the former mayor to gain traction with Black voters.

Lhota served as Giuliani's deputy mayor from 1998 to 2001.

Giuliani and Sharpton's relationship was tense. The two were often at odds over policing and racial issues.

Giuliani questioned Sharpton's credentials during the Harlem activist's 1997 run for mayor.

"I think he's unqualified to be mayor," The New York Times quoted him saying at the time. "I'm not afraid to say that."

On Tuesday, Sharpton deflected questions about his relationship with the former mayor.

"I don't want to get into a comparison of anybody," Sharpton said. "Obviously, Mr. Lhota worked with Mr. Giuliani. I'm not here to take shots."

The meeting was also attended Lhota's wife, Tamra Lhota, Rev. Dr. Franklyn Richardson, Chairman of the National Action Network and Michael Hardy, the network's general council.

The Republican said the meeting left him hopeful.

"We talked about a lot of issues, explaining his positions, my positions and all of that. There's common ground there. There's room there for understanding and agreement. We need to move forward," Lhota said.