NEW YORK CITY (WROC) — New York’s lieutenant governor, State Sen. Brian Benjamin, was sworn into his new role Thursday morning and began his new job with a simple phrase: “Welcome to my family.”
Last month, Hochul introduced Benjamin as her choice for lieutenant governor in his home district of Harlem, where the two promised to work together to address the ongoing pandemic and get COVID-19 relief into New Yorkers’ pockets.
“It has been a pleasure since the moment you [Hochul] asked me to partner by your side,” Benjamin said. “Thank you for the compassion you have shown for people in need. When we were in Queens, you didn’t just come for the photo-op — you came to help, and the people there remembered. You said you would be the one to lead us to a better future; for upstate, downstate, for every ethnicity and every culture to feel included — and you are creating an administration that is doing do.”
The governor said her choice for lieutenant governor is a step towards rebuilding New Yorkers’ trust in their state government.
“I want people to understand what service is about,” Gov. Hochul said. “It is critical that we add value to the words ‘public servant.’ This is a wonderful man, the activism you showed at home led you to where you are now. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary leadership. At the same time we are dealing with the rage of the delta, the kids are finally getting back to education which they have missed so much. We have to continue to put trust in our government.
“We want people to look back to this time and say this was a shiny period in New York, but I can’t do it alone,” Gov. Hochul said. “I need a partner that knows the community, one that has helped heal and recover our neighbors. There has to be trust and honorability. That is why I found a person who struggled, who worked hard, and has rose to where he is now. That is the American Dream, to struggle, to make it and then to look back and help other instead of yourself. I’m going to keep pushing you [Benjamin] because every day is going to be a good day, but the next will be great.”
Lt. Gov. Benjamin said the governor appointed him to chair a New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) task force to address the needs of of city residents, tenants, and landlords, including distribution of emergency rental aid.
Along with NYCHA, Benjamin said the governor has tasked him with helping her tackle the ongoing pandemic, as well as reaching out to communities statewide that remain vaccine hesitant.
The governor said New York will hold a special election in November to fill Benjamin’s state Senate seat in Harlem. Democrats are expected to keep their supermajority in the state Senate.
Benjamin, 44, was born in Harlem Hospital and grew up in Harlem as the son of Caribbean immigrants. He earned his master’s of business administration from Harvard Business School. As a state lawmaker, he has focused on criminal justice reform, recently helping push through a law to criminalize the use of police chokeholds that result in injury or death.
While the role of lieutenant governor in New York is largely ceremonial, Hochul was the second person with the job in 13 years to become governor following a resignation.
Benjamin’s New York City roots could help drive support for Hochul. The city makes up more than a third of the state’s 13.4 million registered voters. And Benjamin’s legislative record could help her make inroads with the party’s progressive wing, which could be crucial in a primary.
Benjamin announced Thursday that he would be running for lieutenant governor in 2022, and that he would be supporting Gov. Hochul’s re-election campaign.
Benjamin unsuccessfully ran for New York City comptroller earlier this year. He served as senior assistant majority leader in the New York State Senate and chair of the budget and revenue committee.
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