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NEW YORK (AP) - Joe Lhota has defeated John Catsimatidis to become the Republican Party nominee for New York City mayor.

Lhota, the former head of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, has 52 percent of the vote with 81 percent of precincts reporting Tuesday night. Catsimatidis, a billionaire grocery store magnate, has 41 percent. George McDonald, head of a nonprofit to help the homeless, has 7 percent.

Lhota was a deputy mayor under Rudolph Giuliani and was praised for steering the MTA through Superstorm Sandy. He resigned to run for mayor and led the polls throughout the campaign.

He will face the Democratic nominee on Nov. 5.

The candidates are vying to replace Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is leaving office after 12 years.