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Ex-subway chief leads New York Republicans in mayoral poll

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The man who stepped down as head of the New York City subway system to run for mayor of New York led rivals this month in a possible Republican primary battle but was far behind potential Democratic candidates, a poll released on Wednesday showed.

Joseph Lhota was favored by 23 percent of those surveyed in a Quinnipiac University poll, more than any other Republican, but trailed the "undecided" category at 53 percent. The next closest potential candidate was businessman John Catsimatidis with 9 percent, Quinnipiac said.

Lhota was deputy mayor for operations under former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, another Republican, and more recently led the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the New York City area's subways, buses and commuter trains.

Lhota won praise for getting transit systems running soon after Superstorm Sandy and stepped down in December after a year in the job.

The Quinnipiac poll showed that Lhota trailed any of the three leading Democratic candidates by three-to-one margins.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn led Lhota by 62 percent to 17 percent; former comptroller and mayoral candidate Bill Thompson led Lhota by 55 percent to 19 percent; and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio led Lhota by 57 percent to 17 percent, the poll said.

Quinn led in a poll of support for Democratic candidates. She was favored by 35 percent of those polled, versus 11 percent for de Blasio, 10 percent for Thompson and 9 percent for current Comptroller John Liu, the poll said.

The survey was largely hypothetical, as none of the candidates have officially declared their intention to run in the November 2013 election.

Quinnipiac said it surveyed 1,332 New York City voters by telephone from January 8 to January 14 and that the poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by David Brunnstrom)

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