09/08/2013 02:09 pm ET Updated Sep 08, 2013

Joe Lhota Calls For 'Regime Change' In Syria, John Catsimatidis Disagress


A leading Republican candidate for New York City mayor said Sunday that he supports a "regime change" in Syria.

"This is a very difficult position the president has put us in," said Joe Lhota, as the final debate with Republican opponent John Catsimatidis ahead of Tuesday's primary veered into international topics. "[President Barack Obama's] leading from behind, which I call following."

Obama this week asked Congress' approval for a military intervention in Syria after U.S. officials said the government there unleashed a chemical weapons attack that killed more than 1,400 people.

"We need to have a regime change in Syria," Lhota said. "I'd ask New York senators to vote 'yes.'"

Catsimatidis, like much of the American public and many members of Congress, disagreed.

"I don't think we know enough about the situation," he said. "Any side we pick, both sides are against us. New York is always the target. When we picked Libya and Egypt, we picked the wrong sides both times."

At 9 p.m. Tuesday night, as votes in both the Republican and Democratic New York City mayoral primaries are counted, Obama is scheduled to deliver a nationally televised address making his case to Congress and a wary American public for an attack on Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime.

A Pew Research poll released earlier this week had just 29 percent of Americans favoring airstrikes “in response to reports that the Syrian government used chemical weapons.” Forty-eight percent of those polled opposed any American attack.

The latest mayoral poll, conducted by Quinnipiac University, has Lhota, the former chief of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, leading supermarket magnate Catsimatidis by a solid 24 percent in the Republican race.