Watch CBS News

Hochul Taps State Senator Brian Benjamin For Lieutenant Governor

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - Gov. Kathy Hochul has decided on her number two.

She will appoint State Senator Brian Benjamin as her lieutenant governor.

Hochul will make the announcement Thursday.

As CBS2's Dick Brennan reports, Benjamin represents Harlem and the Upper West Side, and he is continuing a legacy of Harlem lawmakers reaching the heights of political leadership.

Hazel Dukes, president of the NAACP New York State Conference, said she recently spoke to Hochul, expressing support for Benjamin, who's a friend and former colleague.

"I think that she has put forth a message that she is going to be inclusive, number one," Dukes said.

It's a move former Harlem Congressional representative Charles Rangel called a "tremendous opportunity for the governor to broaden her base now and make her case for reelection."

As CBS2's Aundrea Cline-Thomas reports, the decision comes as many jockeyed for the number two spot.

Last week on "Face The Nation," Hochul explained how she was narrowing down her choices.

"I've spent thousands of hours in New York City. I'm well familiar with the challenges, but I want someone who lives there. I want someone who understands the challenges firsthand," Hochul said.

A son of Harlem and of immigrants, Benjamin started his political career on the community board before joining the state Senate in 2017.

Benjamin ran unsuccessfully for New York City comptroller earlier this year, possibly a silver lining that allowed him to be considered for this new role.

The 44-year-old is an assistant majority leader in the Senate, where he has pushed for criminal justice reform.

Benjamin worked in investment banking for Morgan Stanley before jumping full-time into politics, and was a member of former President Barack Obama's national finance committee.

"I know that he is dedicated to community service. He's been a great senator, a civil servant, and he loves community people regardless of race creed, color or gender," Dukes said.

"He's got a background in business and finance ... and he is someone who I think will be able to shepherd the governor around down-state and help her build relationships as he's done for himself," former governor David Paterson told CBS2's Dick Brennan.

Still, even in the city, Benjamin is not a household name, as many will have to be introduced to him for the first time.

"I will have a very diverse administration, but also excited about the prospect of having a true partnership with the lieutenant governor, who I believe will bring a lot to the table," Hochul said.

By naming a Black man to the position, Hochul is hoping to make good on a promise and draw yet another stark contrast between the non-existent relationship Hochul had with former governor Andrew Cuomo.

Benjamin will be sworn in Thursday at 1 p.m. at the state office building in Harlem.

A lieutenant governor becomes governor when the governor dies, resigns - as happened in this case, or is impeached.

Cuomo had largely relegated Hochul to a ceremonial role, but that, obviously, can change quickly.

Hochul will need down-state support when they run for election next year, although both actually run on their down.

"The lieutenant governor doesn't run on the ticket like the vice president. He has to actually run his own race, so it's going to be a challenge for him as well," Democratic strategist Basil Smikle said.

CBS2's Dick Brennan contributed to this report. Editor's note: This story first appeared on August 25.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.