Lhota-for-mayor web domains claimed in September (UPDATED)

Even before superstorm Sandy, somebody was thinking about a mayoral run by Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Joseph J. Lhota.

For the last month, Lhota has been floated as a potential Republican candidate, with much of the buzz chalked up to his agency’s deft response to the storm, which made landfall on Oct. 29.

MTA chair Joe Lhota gained unprecedented visibility and praise for his agency’s response to superstorm Sandy. Photo courtesy MTA.

But a month and a half earlier, on Sept. 18, someone anonymously snatched four domain names — Lhota2013.com, LhotaforNY.com, LhotaforNYC.com, and JoeLhotaSucks.com — that suggest the idea of a Lhota candidacy was already percolating. (Campaigns often reserve sites with negative connotations to keep them from falling into the wrong hands.)

An MTA spokesman said Wednesday that the Authority was not commenting on any mayoral rumors, but referred a reporter to Lhota’s chief spokesman, Adam Lisberg, who could not immediately be reached for comment.

Lhota, 58, is a Republican who worked as a deputy mayor in the Giuliani administration.

While four Democrats have emerged as mayoral front-runners for the 2013 contest, Lhota’s conservative credentials and business background — he has worked as an investment banker and as a vice president for the Madison Square Garden Company —make him an attractive candidate to the city’s business community, which has been encouraging him to run.

Lhota is expected to decide on a candidacy over the next few weeks, and has even mentioned a run to the city’s current mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg.

To do so, however, he would have to step down from his position as chair of the MTA.

Update: Joe Lhota tells The New York World he is “shocked” to learn that someone parked internet domain names that suggest a mayoral run for the MTA chief, and says he is the victim of a speculator looking for a fast buck.

The domain name purchase coincided with a New York Times article about Lhota’s uninhibited life on Twitter.

“I have no idea who bought them. I did not buy them,” he said. If he does decide to run for mayor, Lhota added, “I’m going to have to pay through the nose” for web addresses.

So is he prepared to pony up? “I’m not going to pay for a website until I make up my mind what I’m going to do,” said Lhota.

As for whether he has decided on a run, he said, “I have not.”

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