As if there was really any doubt after he stepped down as CEO of the MTA, Joe Lhota yesterday all but announced his candidacy for mayor while meeting with GOP bigwigs around town. "Joe Lhota is running," former SI Beep Guy Molinari told the Post afterwards. "He’s got the fire in the belly."

"Mr. Lhota made an exceptional case as to why he would be an effective mayor. He surely possesses the necessary experience to lead such a diverse and intricate city," Robert Scamardella, the chairman of Staten Island’s Republican Party, told the Journal after the customary political genuflection. “I was quite impressed.”

Lhota is joining a quickly filling up GOP field in the race to move into Gracie Mansion, with other GOP potentials including Greek grocery magnate John Catsamitides, Doe Fund founder George MacDonald, publisher Tom Allon and former democratic Bronx Beep Adolfo Carrion.

Of course, Lhota hasn't actually announced his run (and he legally couldn't until he left the MTA on January 1). But Scamardella says when he asked the long time behind-the-scenes player point blank whether he was running, Lhota, a former Giuliani aide, replied, "I’m going through the decision-making process now, but I wouldn’t have left the MTA if I didn’t think I would be a candidate."

Meanwhile, reporters are hard at work pulling up old facts about the former deputy mayor for operations, budget director and commissioner of the Department of Finance for Rudy Giuliani. Most interestingly, the time he may have thrown "ethnic slurs at at least one reporter and shoved him, showing his disdain for anyone or anything that did not agree with the policies of his team." So did that really happen? The shoving of City Hall gadfly Rafael Martinez Alequin certainly seems to have happened but the slur? That is unclear. According to a Times story from the time, "Lhota acknowledged shoving him but denied using a remark derogatory to Latinos."

That Lhota can have a short fuse shouldn't be a shock though. Remember when he told an MTA board member to "be a man?"