Gov. Kathy Hochul Taps State Sen. Brian Benjamin as Lieutenant Governor


New York Gov. Kathy Hochul didn’t waste any time filling out the upper ranks of her administration by tapping State Sen. Brian Benjamin (D-Harlem) to be her lieutenant governor, according to multiple reports.

Two days after her own swearing-in ceremony, Gov. Hochul announced on Wednesday that the 44-year-old legislator was her pick for lieutenant governor at the Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. State Office Building in Harlem.

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Hochul, who has already committed to running for re-election in 2022, made her choice in a nod to the Harlem base that had long buoyed former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s political career.

“It’s incredibly tough to win a statewide Democratic primary not being from downstate,” said Jake Dilemani, a Democratic strategist at Mercury Public Affairs. “What [Benjamin] also brings to the table are good relationships with the county organizations that Kathy needs.”

Benjamin was one of at least two state lawmakers, including Bronx State Sen. Jamaal Bailey, that Hochul vetted to take over her lieutenant governor post in the two-week period after former Gov. Cuomo announced he would resign following his sexual harassment scandal. Hochul told CBS’s “Face the Nation” she was looking for someone from New York City who understands the region’s challenges and would add diversity to her office.

“She wanted a Black Democrat from New York City and she got her wish,” Pierre Gooding, a former New York City Council candidate from Benjamin’s Harlem district, said. “He’s not going to be someone to railroad her. He’s much more moderate; he’s looking to keep the position when they run in a year and a half.”

Benjamin, who lost his bid to be New York City comptroller in the June primary, will be the first statewide official with experience in the real estate sector since Richard Ravitch served as lieutenant governor from 2009 to 2010. 

He served as managing director for Genesis Companies, a Harlem affordable housing developer, for seven years before he won a special election in 2017 after Bill Perkins left his Upper Manhattan state Senate seat for the city council.

By the time he left for public office, Genesis accumulated 764 active violations and was involved in 100 cases in housing court for the roughly 1,000 affordable housing units it managed, the New York Post reported. Several violations involved rat and roach infestations, bed bugs, lead paint hazards, water leaks, and faulty wiring. The city sued Genesis over its heat and hot water problems in four buildings.

Benjamin remained a consultant with the company for another year, drawing a $60,000 retainer on top of his $79,500 legislative salary, the Post reported

And he’s in line for a substantial pay raise. Lieutenant governors earn $210,000, nearly double the $110,000 Benjamin pulled down in the state Senate last year.