Brian Benjamin (238201)

The transition to put New York State Lieutenant Governor Kath Hochul in place as governor after Andrew Cuomo resigned is in full swing. In the midst of the transition, focus is now turning on who she will appoint as her lieutenant governor.

The Associated Press reported this week that Hochul has narrowed her search down to two people who will serve alongside her: Harlem State Sen. Brian Benjamin and Bronx State Sen. Jamaal Bailey. Both are Black men, from downstate and under 50. Hochul will reportedly announce her decision on Aug. 24 when she’s sworn in.

Speaking on CBS’ political show “Face the Nation,” Hochul did not name who she was thinking about choosing to be her lieutenant governor but said she wanted someone from the New York City area.

“I am an upstater, even though I’ve spent thousands of hours in New York City, and I’m well familiar with the challenges,” Hochul said. “But I want someone who lives there. I want someone who understands the challenges firsthand.”

In an exclusive interview with the AmNews, Benjamin said he’s proud to be considered to be part of the team to help New York State. He says he’s known Hochul since he was first elected to represent New York State’s 30th Senate District in 2017.

Armed with an Ivy League education with a degree from Brown University and an MBA from Harvard, Benjamin currently serves as chairman of the Committee on Revenue and Budget for the State Senate.

“I believe she should pick the person who she believes is most qualified and most able to help her govern the State of New York,” Benjamin said. “Whoever she decides to pick for lieutenant governor, I would imagine it would be one of the folks that she would seek counsel from to help her lead the state. I know she cares about New York State, and she cares about New York City. One of the reasons why I believe she said she’s looking for a lieutenant governor from the city is because she knows it’s important to have that sort of representation.”

Benjamin said he first met Hochul in 2017 when she joined him to tour small businesses along Harlem’s Eighth Avenue corridor. Recently, Hochul assisted Benjamin with the Harlem Park to Park initiative. The two met with local vendors and toured Harlem’s Whole Foods Market.

“She’s someone who has shown that she cares about communities like ours so I feel very, very confident as governor she will continue to do so,” Benjamin said.

Of course, the biggest issue for anyone leading New York State right now is the COVID-19 pandemic and the problems that come with it. The Delta variant is raging through the state, many New Yorkers remain unvaccinated, and thousands of tenants are looking for rent relief.

“We have to make sure that government works,” he said. “When you think about all of the things that have to happen over the next year for us to transition out of COVID and get the economy going again, I think it’s really an honor to be considered as someone who could play that kind of a role.”

Hochul announced that she plans to run for governor after she finishes out Cuomo’s term. Whoever she picks as lieutenant governor will likely be her running mate in 2022 setting the stage for that person to eventually run for governor in the future. When asked about running for governor himself, Benjamin said he always keeps his options open.