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Politics

Hochul Selects Sen. Brian Benjamin for Lieutenant Governor

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has selected Brian Benjamin, a state senator from New York City, as her choice for lieutenant governor, according to a person familiar with the administration's internal discussions.

The person spoke with The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because Hochul had yet to announce her decision publicly. She is expected to do so this week.

If he accepts the job, the 44-year-old Benjamin would become the state's second Black lieutenant governor. The Democrat, whose district includes most of central Harlem, has focused his legislative career on criminal justice reform and affordable housing.

The role of lieutenant governor in New York has long been largely ceremonial,  with the officeholders traveling to ribbon-cutting ceremonies and town halls across the state. But two recent lieutenant governors have become governor following the resignations of their predecessors. 

Hochul, a Democrat, became governor Tuesday when Andrew Cuomo resigned after facing numerous allegations of sexual harassment, which he denied. David Paterson, the state's first Black lieutenant governor, became its first Black governor when Eliot Spitzer resigned after revelations that he had patronized a prostitute. 

Hochul's and Benjamin's offices didn't immediately return messages seeking comment.

Benjamin is the son of Caribbean immigrants. He was born in Harlem Hospital and raised in the neighborhood, later earning a bachelor's degree in public policy from Brown University and an MBA from Harvard Business School. He later worked as a developer of affordable housing. He is now senior assistant majority leader in the Senate and chair of the budget and revenue committee.

Benjamin initially ran on promises to close Rikers Island, New York City's giant and troubled jail complex, and sponsored a bill to do so. He also introduced legislation to divest New York's public pension fund from private prisons. State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli later ended the fund's holdings in those companies.

In the national uproar after the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minnesota in 2020, Benjamin helped push through a law to criminalize the use of police chokeholds that result in injury or death.

Benjamin has also tweeted support for defunding the police.

This year, Benjamin sponsored a bill  making it harder to incarcerate people for minor parole violations. The legislation passed the Senate and Assembly but hasn't been delivered to the governor, according to the Senate's website.

Benjamin unsuccessfully ran for New York City comptroller this year.

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