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Republican ad stirs 70s crime fears in NYC mayoral race

Republican New York City mayoral candidate Joe Lhota waves to people as he attends the 69th Annual Columbus Day Parade in New York, October
Republican New York City mayoral candidate Joe Lhota waves to people as he attends the 69th Annual Columbus Day Parade in New York, October

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Republican New York City mayoral candidate Joe Lhota, trailing far behind Democratic rival Bill de Blasio in polls, took a shot at the leader this week with a TV ad that evoked memories of the dark, violent New York of the 1970s and 80s.

The 30-second ad begins with video of a September incident in which a motorcycle gang chased and then beat the driver of a sport-utility vehicle on a Manhattan highway. A narrator reads "Bill de Blasio's recklessly dangerous agenda on crime will take us back to this," and the ad shifts to images including the city's formerly graffiti-covered subway trains and a flipped-over police car.

Those latter photos came from the 25-year period when Democratic mayors ran the city, before Republican Rudolph Giuliani, famous for his aggressive crackdown on crime, kicked off a 20-year period without a Democrat in Gracie Mansion.

Lhota was a Giuliani deputy who went on to serve as the head of New York's mass-transit agency.

De Blasio campaign officials on Thursday did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment. A campaign representative told the New York Daily News: "Lhota is right that we can't go back: we shouldn't return to the days when Republicans like Giuliani used fear tactics to divide New Yorkers against each other."

Giuliani's successor Michael Bloomberg, was elected in 2002 as a Republican and later changed his affiliation to independent.

Polls suggest the city's Democratic party has a very strong chance of breaking that streak of losses in November. De Blasio had the support of 67 percent of likely voters in a Wall Street Journal/NBC 4 New York/Marist poll released last week, which found that just 23 percent of likely voters supported Lhota.

(Writing by Scott Malone; editing by Andrew Hay)

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