State Sen. Brian Benjamin of Manhattan is set to become the next lieutenant governor of New York and join Gov. Kathy Hochul's administration, sources told Spectrum News on Wednesday.
Benjamin will be the second Black man to hold the lieutenant governor's job, joining a history-making administration led by the first woman to serve as the state's chief executive.
Hochul and Benjamin are expected to appear together at an event in New York City on Thursday.
When reporters caught up with Senate Majority Leader Andréa Stewart-Cousins and asked her about Hochul’s pick, she was reluctant to confirm it, since Hochul’s team still had not.
“Well, I’m laughing at that because it’s all over the Internet, so this is one of those best kept secrets, I guess,” Stewart-Cousins said. “I don’t certainly wish to get out in front of the governor, but I can say of Senator Benjamin he is an excellent senator.”
Benjamin is a former candidate for New York City comptroller. A Harlem lawmaker, Benjamin provides geographic balance to a potential statewide ticket in 2022 as Hochul seeks a full four-year term.
Benjamin has also been a prominent voice in the Legislature for criminal justice law changes and overhauling the state's bail laws.
The choice of Benjamin means that his colleague Jamaal Bailey, also a state Senator who was on the short list, will not be Hochul’s choice. Bailey is a close ally of Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.
“I always think that the Lieutenant Governor is like the Vice President. It’s a personal pick,” Heastie said. “So Kathy Hochul believes that Brian Benjamin is the partner that she wants, I am more than fine with it.”
The lieutenant governor's post is a largely ill-defined one in the state's Constitution. Much like the vice president, the lieutenant governor can preside over the state Senate, and can cast tie-breaking votes, but in limited circumstances.
Hochul, like previous governors before her, is familiar with the job and the formalities that can come with it, which often involve promoting the gubernatorial administration's goals and agenda around the state.
For Hochul, Benjamin will likely be given a portfolio of promoting her efforts in New York City, an area of the state she will need to do well enough in next year to clear a Democratic primary in what is expected to be a competitive field.
Hochul is able to select her own lieutenant governor after a court ruling in 2009 solidified the power of the governor to fill a vacancy in the office. At the time, Gov. David Paterson was trying to end the logjam created by a Senate leadership coup and appointed Richard Ravitch.