NEW YORK – New York Gov. Kathy Hochul introduced state Sen. Brian Benjamin as her choice for lieutenant governor Thursday in the senator's Harlem district, where the two promised to work together to address the ongoing pandemic and get COVID-19 relief into New Yorkers' pockets.
Hochul, the former lieutenant governor, took office Tuesday after the resignation of Andrew Cuomo amid a sexual harassment scandal. Hochul, who plans to run in the Democratic gubernatorial primary in June, and Benjamin spoke Thursday alongside longtime Cuomo allies who ultimately called on him to resign: Rev. Al Sharpton and NAACP New York State Conference President Hazel Dukes.
Benjamin will be sworn-in “right after Labor Day,” Hochul said.
The governor said New York will hold a special election in November to fill Benjamin’s state Senate seat in Harlem. Democrats are expected to keep their supermajority in the state Senate.
“I want to thank the entire village of Harlem who helped create this young man who’s going to help us lead the state into better days and prosperity,” Hochul told a cheering crowd of supporters.
Benjamin, 44, was born in Harlem Hospital and grew up in Harlem as the son of Caribbean immigrants. He earned his master’s of business administration from Harvard Business School. As a state lawmaker, he has focused on criminal justice reform, recently helping push through a law to criminalize the use of police chokeholds that result in injury or death.
“So many kids walking down 125th Street right now need to know this world is here for them,” he said, adding: "Our community needs the government to work.”
Hochul and Benjamin didn't name Cuomo directly, but both vowed to help usher in a new collaborative approach between state and local government in New York.
Benjamin called her a “person of integrity,” and added: “You could tell a lot about somebody before they have that ultimate power.”
While the role of lieutenant governor in New York is largely ceremonial, Hochul was the second person with the job in 13 years to become governor following a resignation.
Hochul stressed that Benjamin will serve as her “partner" and that they'll “work side-by-side in the trenches.”
Benjamin vowed to raise support for the new administration’s policies statewide and focus on issues from homelessness to gun violence.
Benjamin’s New York City roots could help drive support for Hochul. The city makes up more than a third of the state’s 13.4 million registered voters. And Benjamin’s legislative record could help her make inroads with the party’s progressive wing, which could be crucial in a primary.
Benjamin unsuccessfully ran for New York City comptroller this year. He serves as senior assistant majority leader in the Senate and chair of the budget and revenue committee.