Hochul heralds new ‘partner’ in lieutenant governor pick, Harlem’s Brian Benjamin

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Gov. Kathy Hochul is making sure her number two won’t be ignored in her new administration — like she was working under disgraced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo. 

The state’s first female governor introduced the incoming Lieutenant Governor, Democratic state Sen. Brian Benjamin, as her “partner” during a press conference in Harlem held Thursday, telling New Yorkers to “get used to that word.” 

“I am so delighted to announce my partner — and the word partner means something to me. Someone who works side by side in the trenches. Someone who will be out there championing our policies and our administration’s agenda in every corner of the state, with a real focus on New York City,” said Hochul, praising Benjamin.

“New York City needs our help, and this individual is someone who’s been through the trenches, starting locally where he was on his community board, where he worked his way up to elective office and someone I’ve become a dear friend of in the [state] Senate.”

Gov. Kathy Hochul introducing State Sen. Brian Benjamin — her pick for lieutenant governor — at a press conference in Harlem on August 26, 2021.
Matthew McDermott

Hochul heralded Benjamin’s track record, calling him a “champion of criminal justice reform, affordable housing and tenant protection” — noting the pair are in lockstep when it comes to priorities. 

Benjamin similarly cheered Hochul as a “friend” and “sister.”

“Governor Hochul is someone who I have a lot of faith in and it’s not just because we did so many important things together over my four years as being a state senator. It’s because of the moments we had, the conversations we had, where I was able to see inside her heart.

Benjamin called Gov. Hochul a "friend and a sister."
Benjamin called Gov. Hochul a “friend and a sister.”
Matthew McDermott

“I knew the kind of person she was before she had power. And you could tell a lot about someone before they have that ultimate power. A kind woman, a person of integrity, a person who believes that constituent services matter and believes that it’s bigger than us. It’s about the people of the State of New York. That is your governor, Kathy Hochul.

“I’ve got very big shoes to fill because there has been no lieutenant governor who has traveled this state, all 62 counties, working hard. There is no one more ready to be governor right now, than Governor Kathy Hochul. But I’m up for the task,” he added.

Hochul said Benjamin’s official swearing in ceremony will occur sometime after Labor Day, as the appointment will trigger a special election for the 30th state Senate district, which covers all of Harlem, parts of the Upper West Side and Morningside Heights. 

She said the date will coincide with the upcoming November elections “to save taxpayer dollars,” as the state Legislature recently passed a new law requiring a special election be held within 60 days of a vacancy.

Benjamin said that he would have "very big shoes to fill" as he replaces Hochul as Lieutenant Governor.
Benjamin said that he would have “very big shoes to fill” as he replaces Hochul as lieutenant governor.
Matthew McDermott

Meanwhile, high profile civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton applauded the unit and Hazel Dukes, president of the NAACP New York State Conference, dubbed herself the “second mother” of Benjamin. 

They praised Hochul’s choice of a Black man to serve in the second in command post and highlighted Benjamin’s accomplishments, such as his prime sponsorship of the Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Act — signed into law last year, which amended the state’s penal law and banned police officers from using chokeholds.

Gov. Hochul and Benjamin with Rev. Al Sharpton at the press conference.
Gov. Hochul and Benjamin with Rev. Al Sharpton at the press conference.
Matthew McDermott

The perception of an already warm, budding Hochul-Benjamin relationship is a departure from the frosty Cuomo-Hochul administration. 

Hochul was largely left out of key decisions despite serving as Cuomo’s lieutenant governor since 2014. 

She appeared next to Cuomo only a handful of times during the ex-governor’s nationally televised coronavirus briefings and didn’t even get a mention in his $5.1 million pandemic memoir “American Crisis.”

Benjamin will be officially sworn in after Labor Day, according to Hochul.
Benjamin will be officially sworn in after Labor Day, according to Hochul.
Matthew McDermott

In 2018, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was putting a lot of pressure on Hochul to run for her former congressional seat in the heavily red district occupied by ex-Rep. Chris Collins, the Western New York Republican who resigned in disgrace after pleading guilty to insider trading charges. 

Cuomo supported the notion, but Hochul had no interest in running for the post.

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