Benjamin already drawing support as NY's new lieutenant governor
Gov. Kathy Hochul's choice of Harlem state Sen. Brian Benjamin as her lieutenant governor is drawing support from local politicians and activists.
The new governor said her choice would be from downstate and Benjamin is, with a district centering in Harlem and upper Manhattan. He's Ivy League educated, with degrees from Brown University and Harvard Business School and an apparently profitable stint as a money manager before getting into the political wars in New York City.
To win a full term, Hochul has to fend off politicians based in the state's largest voter pool, New York City and its immediate suburban counties. She's likely to face a primary fight with Attorney General Letitia James from Brooklyn, so picking a lieutenant from that borough was probably ruled out.
Benjamin is trusted enough in the fractious Senate to be chair of its Budget Committee, important when all decisions are fiscal and in an election year more so.
South Buffalo Democratic Sen. Tim Kennedy said Benjamin has visited Western New York and is a good choice.
"He's a very thoughtful, deliberate, focused individual that cares about people. It's all about what's on the ground and what people have happening in their lives, working families," Kennedy said, "the issues that are important to all of us: helping people find jobs, get an education, fight poverty and fight crime. These are things that are part of who we stand for."
Benjamin is known for his work on affordable housing, which is always an issue in New York City, and on criminal justice issues, which are controlled by downstate legislators and are not always easily accepted in this area.
Jim Anderson, state vice president of Citizen Action and a long-time activist, said the grapevine is saying good things about Benjamin and seeing him as a new generation moving up.
"If he were not a good candidate, we would have heard the drumbeat of the community," Anderson said. "I think we have to go with Benjamin. Besides that, there's an election coming up anyway. So it's like a test run."
Lancaster Assemblymember Monica Wallace said Benjamin's ties to Wall Street are important, with businesses talking about leaving the state.
"He has a interesting background, an interesting voice to add to the conversation, a person of color," Wallace said. "Now-Gov. Hochul said that she would make sure that she had diversity as a priority for her administration. I think she's showing that already. It's not only diversity of race and gender, but it's also diversity of background and experience."