De Blasio, Cuomo Close Ranks Behind Benjamin in State Senate Race

Brian Benjamin, the Community Board 10 chair, is seeking the State Senate seat vacated when Bill Perkins won February’s City Council special election in Harlem. | BRIANBENJAMIN.ORG

BY JACKSON CHEN | Brian Benjamin, the Democratic Party’s candidate for State Senate District 30, has secured Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo’s endorsements with just days left before the special election on May 23.

Benjamin, a real estate developer and chair of Community Board 10, is looking to build on his years of community service as the rationale for his Senate bid to fill the seat vacated by Bill Perkins, who won an earlier special election to the City Council. With six years on CB10, Benjamin is already familiar with most of the district, which includes portions of the Upper West Side, East and Central Harlem, and Upper Manhattan.

The CB10 chair will face off against the Republican Party’s Dawn Simmons and the Reform Party’s Ruben Dario Vargas. However, Benjamin will go into the special election with a major advantage, having secured endorsements from the mayor this week, the governor in April, and the New York State United Teachers, a union of more than 600,000 education professionals.

In addition to his work on CB10, Benjamin in 2007 formed Harlem for Obama, a grassroots initiative to inform the community about the voting process and garner support for the Illinois senator against New York Senator Hillary Clinton – at a time when the future president was not yet well known in Manhattan.

If elected, Benjamin said, he would focus on affordable housing, funding for education, reforming criminal justice, and promoting job diversity.

“It’s a true honor to have Mayor de Blasio’s endorsement in my campaign for State Senate,” Benjamin said in a press release. “From providing early education to increasing access to affordable housing and expanding labor and paid leave protections, Mayor de Blasio’s progressive policies are having a real, positive impact right here in the 30th District.”

Benjamin has worked with de Blasio and his administration throughout the years as an affordable housing developer with Genesis Companies and through CB10.

The mayor said that Benjamin has a proven track record of representing the community.

“I believe that we need strong Democrats like [Benjamin] up in Albany, ready to help make our communities more affordable, and push back against the dangerous Trump agenda,” de Blasio said in a written release. “With Brian as New York’s newest state senator, we can work to restore Democratic control to the Legislature and make these priorities a reality.”

Even with a Benjamin victory, however, the Democrats, unable to command the support of Brooklyn conservative Democrat Simcha Felder, will not have enough votes to secure control of the Senate. With Republicans in charge, Democrats also face defections by a rump Independent Democratic Conference, headed by Bronx Senator Jeffrey Klein, who have secured some leadership positions as well, in some cases, as enhanced pay – known informally as lulus – for their cooperation with the GOP.

Benjamin has pledged to remain loyal to the mainline Democrats, while he hopes to be a uniting force between the Democrats and the eight-member IDC.