NEW YORK (AP) — 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.
“This is a secret, you don’t know what I’m going to say, right?” Hochul said jokingly.
“I believe that governing is about working together. Teamwork is the essence of effective leadership, and it is more important than ever as we confront the urgent problems facing the state,” Hochul said. “My administration is going to attract the best and the brightest — people who share my values of working hard for the people of this state and who will get the job done – and that includes the newest member Senator Brian Benjamin who has agreed to serve as my Lieutenant Governor. There is so much work to do, and I am grateful to have him by my side as we implement our vision for a safer, healthier and fairer New York.”
“Governor Hochul is someone who I have a lot of faith in,” Benjamin said. “It’s because of the moments we’ve had, the conversations we’ve had where I was able to see inside her heart and I knew the kind of person she was before she had power.”
“Governor Kathy Hochul, I will do everything I can to help you make sure that we will deliver for the state of New York,” he continued.
Benjamin would become the state’s second Black lieutenant governor — Hochul, herself, became New York’s first female governor.
A swearing-in ceremony for Benjamin will take place after Labor Day, according to Hochul. A special election for his senator position will coincide with the November elections to save taxpayers’ money, she added.
A person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity on Wednesday said Hochul had selected fellow Democrat Benjamin for her No. 2.
Benjamin grew up in Harlem as the son of Caribbean immigrants and earned his master’s of business administration from Harvard Business School. He has focused on criminal justice reform as a state lawmaker.
“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.