NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Tamra Roberts Lhota, the wife of Republican mayoral contender Joe Lhota, is also one of his closest advisers.
As CBS 2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported Wednesday, Roberts has been involved in politics for decades, and she now hopes to be the next first lady of New York City.
Lhota first met his then-Washington, D.C.-based wife on a Paine Webber conference call. The first time he asked her out was at 3 p.m. on New Year’s Eve 1989, for a party that very night.
Mrs. Lhota said it posed something of a conundrum for her.
“Did I really want to say that I was going to be available at 3 o’clock on New Year’s Eve day?” she said.
Roberts decided to gamble.
“I threw caution to the wind and said yes,” she said.
It was instant attraction. They stayed up all night talking, and within three weeks, they knew they wanted to marry.
“It was really nice to know early on that we loved each other,” Mrs. Lhota said. “That gave us a lot of room to work out the ups and downs that are in every serious relationship.”
Mrs. Lhota is a study in contrasts. She earned a divinity degree and considered becoming an Episcopal priest, but she is also a powerhouse political fundraiser – collecting the dough that helped Rudolph Giuliani become mayor.
Giuliani named Mrs. Lhota to head the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, which prompted public-private partnerships. And then, after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Roberts was named the head of the Twin Towers Fund to raise money for survivors.
She remained touched by the outpouring of support.
“There was a little girl, I think from Utah, whose allowance every week was a dime, and she was saving it for a Barbie doll,” Mrs. Lhota said. “And she taped them to a piece of paper, and her mom wrote her a note saying this is what she wanted to do,” by contributing to the fund.
Lhota was deputy mayor when the planes hit the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. He played a major role in the aftermath and spent a lot of time near ground zero.
“This is one of the things I like and admire about Joe,” Mrs. Lhota said, “how many funerals he went to; he spoke and eulogized the firemen; the policemen.”
Then the worst happened. Mrs. Lhota’s husband contracted lymphoma – one of the blood diseases others near the attack site have come down with.
It remains incredibly hard for Roberts to talk about, and hard for the couple’s daughter, Kathryn – even though the Republican mayoral candidate is now healthy and in remission.
“The day that Joe was diagnosed with lymphoma was just heartbreaking,” Mrs. Lhota said. “I think my husband’s sense of morality – you’re wondering what opportunities are no longer possible. You don’t know how it’s going to progress. You don’t know if the treatment will be successful or not. You’re facing a tremendous uncertaintly.”
Mrs. Lhota is one of her husband’s closest advisers, with an office in his campaign headquarters.
But in the hurly-burly world of politics, she retains her spiritual side. For their 25th wedding anniversary, she said she did not want diamonds, but rather, she wanted to work the soup line at the Bowery Mission.
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