(Emily Anne Epstein/Metro) Joe Lhota says he and Anthony Weiner have been friends for a long time and says the former representative would raise the level of the debate. Credit: Emily Anne Epstein/Metro

 

The potential candidacy for disgraced former Rep. Anthony Weiner has an unlikely supporter: a mayoral candidate who may be a future rival.

 

Former MTA chair Joseph Lhota told reporters outside City Hall that he would love to debate Weiner in the race.

 

“Anthony’s been a friend for a long time,” Lhota said. “I think he raises the level of the debate.”

 

Lhota also says he believes in forgiveness, indicating that voters should forgive Weiner for his 2011 sexting scandal.

Weiner said in a New York Times interview published last week that he was mulling a mayoral run.

Lhota is among an increasingly busy field of candidates, from City Council Speaker Christine Quinn to Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.