Governor Kathy Hochul officially announced she will appoint Harlem State Senator Brian Benjamin to be her number two as Lieutenant Governor at a rally in the uptown Manhattan neighborhood Thursday, Aug. 26.
“I am so delighted to announce my partner — and the word partner means something to me — we’ll work side by side in the trenches,” Hochul said outside the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building on 125th Street. “So I’m going to 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.”
Benjamin will officially be sworn in after Labor Day for the second-ranking office of the state’s executive branch, taking over the position held by Hochul before she ascended to governor following Andrew Cuomo’s resignation earlier this week.
The delay is so a special election for his vacated seat will coincide with the November general election, according to Hochul.
Benjamin served in the state legislature for four years and unsuccessfully ran for city comptroller this year, and the lawmaker heaped praise on his new boss.
“I’ve got very big shoes to fill,” said Benjamin, “because there’s been no lieutenant governor who has traveled this state — all 62 counties, working hard — there’s no one more ready to be governor right now than Lieutenant Governor — I’m sorry — the Governor Kathy Hochul.”
The lieutenant governor is a largely ceremonial role with few powers, but Benjamin would be first in line of succession for governor.
Benjamin said his priorities in office are gun violence, homelessness, affordable housing, and the recent surge of COVID-19 driven by the highly-contagious Delta variant.
He also reiterated priorities announced by Hochul during her first days in office, such as getting lagging state relief funds out to New Yorkers in need.
“We got to make sure that our renters and landlords and workers, who have been hurting because of COVID, get the relief that’s already here for them to receive,” the pol said.
The Democrat was elected to the state’s upper legislative chamber in 2017, representing East Harlem and the Upper West Side.
Hochul, who’s from Buffalo, had announced earlier that she intended to tap a downstate legislator and a person of color, which will likely boost her election chances with crucial voting blocks in the Five Boroughs to keep her office next year.
Benjamin is the second Black lieutenant governor after David Paterson, who also became Governor after Eliot Spitzer resigned in disgrace in 2008.
A son of a Caribbean immigrant mother, Benjamin worked as an investment banker for Morgan Stanley prior to public office, and the Manhattanite said he never imagined rising to the statewide leadership job, adding he wanted to help young people from his native Harlem.
“I never in a million years would’ve imagined I would be standing here as the lieutenant governor for the State of New York,” he said. “So many young kids who are walking down 125th Street right now need to know that this world’s here for them and we need to help them take it, government has to help them take it.”