Short of former Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin’s death or leaving the state between now and June’s primary elections, he is still technically on the ballot and qualified to hold office. Elections experts say it’s high-key unlikely that he will though.
Benjamin resigned shortly after his arrest on April 12 for alleged campaign fraud during his time as state senator in Harlem. However, he had already filed early on Feb. 18 with the New York State’s Board of Elections (NYSBOE) to be Gov. Kathy Hochul’s running mate and lieutenant governor.
Despite his arrest and resignation, he could potentially run in the primary on June 28. NYSBOE said that at this point, meaning past the April 7 petitioning and filing deadline, there isn’t an opportunity for someone else to qualify for the party line on the ballot.
NYSBOE Deputy Director of Public Information Jennifer Wilson explained in a statement that there are currently only three ways to remove a candidate from a ballot: death, declination or disqualification.
“Death is self-explanatory,” said Wilson.
The second way is for a candidate to decline being on a ballot, but declination can only occur within a specific time frame after a designation is filed. Benjamin received his certificate of designation from the State Convention back in Feb, so the window to decline being on the ballot closed in February, said Wilson.
The last method of disqualification happens when a candidate no longer meets the qualifications to hold that office, which means not being a U.S. citizen, 30 years old and a resident of the state for 5 years, said Wilson. Benjamin is a 45-year-old Harlem native. The only way for him to lose his qualifications to run in an election at this point is if he moved out of state.
An elections lawyer confirmed that Benjamin is on the ballot until legally the state finds a way to remove him, but “there’s no way that he would run.”
The Amsterdam News tried to reach out to Benjamin, but he has not returned requests for comment on if he will run or move states.
“In the specific case of the LTG, he could also just lose the Democratic primary and that would also remove him from the November ballot,” said Wilson.
It’s hard to say where this leaves Hochul’s bid for reelection.
“For governor you don’t necessarily have to declare if you want to have a lieutenant governor running with you,” said a NYSBOE rep. “Traditionally, that is done but you can run for governor without having like selected someone.”
The NYSBOE rep theorized that the tradition stems from the fact that it’s easier to have two names on a single petition to get more signatures since the threshold is pretty high. Hochul and Benjamin weren’t required to collect petitions to get on the ballot this year as the party’s designated candidates.
Gotham Gazette reported that the state legislature “floated” the idea of creating legislation to remove Benjamin from the ballot, and has already started “vetting replacements.” It’s still a toss up because whoever wins the lieutenant governor primaries and the governor primaries automatically share a ticket for the general election in November, said Gotham Gazette.
In the meantime, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins is the acting lieutenant governor, a role she had assumed last year between Hochul’s move to governor and Benjamin’s swearing in, said Gotham Gazette.
Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about culture and politics in New York City for The Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w