Attacks in the New York mayoral race are underway in earnest. Observe the ideological mud-slinging between Democrat Bill de Blasio and Republican Joe Lhota.
De Blasio has faced criticism in the last few weeks for his connection to the Sandinista movement. Initially he was abashed, but now he is less apologetic. He defended his work in Nicaragua, praising the movement and waxing poetically about the time he spent in that region. “I am a progressive who believes in an activist approach to government. You can call it whatever the heck you want,” de Blasio said.
Bill de Blasio is still the favorite in the mayoral race. Yesterday he was feted at a fundraiser with a bunch of Wall Street types, who are quixotically and perhaps suicidally supporting the candidate who has promised to raise their taxes. De Blasio is also way up in the polls.
Frontrunner status means that de Blasio’s words and deeds are being watched closely for any sign of weakness—and he exhibited one such sign when he outlined some of his ideas on how to spend New York’s Hurricane Sandy funds. The federal government transferred a large amount of money to the municipality to help with the rehabilitation of neighborhoods affected by the 2012 hurricane. De Blasio suggested that the dollars be used “not just to right the wrongs of Sandy but start righting some greater wrongs,” with greater wrongs being economic inequality. “As mayor,” writes the New York Times, “[de Blasio] might require that federal relief money be used to create jobs that pay a so-called living wage of at least $10 an hour, well above minimum wage[.]” He would focus on using the resources to “create affordable housing and community health care sites in areas damaged by Hurricane Sandy.”
De Blasio’s proposal to take money from Sandy relief to turn Rockaway and other storm-stricken regions into socialist liberal democratic paradises did not go over well with his Republican opponent. “The people of the Rockaways won’t be fooled by this blatant political maneuvering in pursuit of a promotion,” said a Lhota spokesperson. Rep. Michael Grimm was particularly perturbed, calling the plan asinine and stating that such an initiative would amount to a slush fund.
Presumably in an effort to draw some attention off his back, de Blasio’s campaign launched an attack salvo of their own. The de Blasio team highlighted a New York Times profile of Lhota which discussed Lhota’s admiration for former Republican senator and presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. “Government is to point you in the right direction, and not to do everything for you,” said Lhota to the Times.
In New York, this can easily be construed as a negative amongst the large voting base of liberal Democrats. The de Blasio campaign shot out a press release on Monday offering ten facts about Goldwater, including his quote, “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice,” and some of Goldwater’s more libertarian policy stances, particularly regarding the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Lhota, due to his admiration for Goldwater, adheres to the “discredited, favor-the-wealthy economic theory of ‘supply-side economics.’”
Lhota is not exactly the most consistent supporter of limited government. In the same Times profile that de Blasio’s team seized upon, Lhota “concedes that he was wrong” about a New York City smoking ban, which he initially resisted. “I thought the world was going to come to an end, and then it didn’t…It was the right thing to do.” Now he is happy to declare: “I’m practical when it comes to these issues.” He also claims to agree with “major parts” of Obamacare.
Some of de Blasio’s other attacks this week included blaming Lhota’s “tea party friends” for shutting down the government—particularly the Statue of Liberty—and criticizing Lhota for having some libertarian donors. The Tea Party is anathema in New York, where people think of them as racist survivalists rather than freedom fighters, so de Blasio’s attack is a powerful one. Lhota does not seem interested in standing by these affiliations, preferring instead to lean toward the middle; he called the Tea Party “extremists” and “a bad force for the Republican party,” and distanced himself from Republicans in Congress by telling them to “get their acts together and do the right thing for the country…put self interest aside, pass a responsible budget” and not to persist with a government shutdown.
So perhaps one could say that Lhota is no more a Goldwater Republican than de Blasio is a Marxist.