New York Governor Picks Caribbean American Legislator as Lieutenant Governor

New York Governor Kathy Hochul and New York Senator Brian Benjamin, who has been named Lieutenant Governor of New York.
By Nelson A. King

NEW YORK, Aug 27, CMC – The newly-installed New York Governor, Kathy Hochul, has named  Caribbean American New York State Senator, Brian Benjamin, for the position of Lieutenant Governor.

Benjamin, 44, the son of a Guyanese mother and Jamaican father, previously served as the New York State Senator for District 30, which encompasses Harlem, East Harlem and the Upper West Side in Manhattan.

He was the chairman of the New York Senate Committee on Revenue and Budget, and Senior Assistant Majority Leader, distinguishing himself as a leader in criminal justice reform and affordable housing.

Benjamin and 62-year-old Hochul previously worked together on several key issues, including fighting the opioid epidemic and boosting addiction recovery programmes, supporting minority and women-owned Business Enterprises (MWBE) and making it easier for New Yorkers to vote.

“I believe that governing is about working together. Teamwork is the essence of effective leadership, and it is more important than ever as we confront the urgent problems facing the state,” said Hochul in making the announcement.

“My administration is going to attract the best and the brightest – people who share my values of working hard for the people of this state and who will get the job done – and that includes the newest member Senator Brian Benjamin, who has agreed to serve as my Lieutenant Governor.

“There is so much work to do, and I am grateful to have him by my side, as we implement our vision for a safer, healthier and fairer New York,” added Hochul, the former lieutenant governor, who, on Tuesday, succeeded former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo resigned after the Attorney General, Letitia James, issued a blistering investigative report allegedly accusing Cuomo of sexually harassing 11 women and creating a toxic work environment.

“I want to thank Governor Hochul for trusting me with the incredible honour of serving alongside her as Lieutenant Governor. Governor Hochul is a collaborator, who makes sure everyone has a seat at the table, and, like me, is laser-focused on listening to the needs of New Yorkers and empowering local leaders.

“We have a strong history of collaboration that will help us to hit the ground running immediately, as we help guide New York through this challenging moment in history,” he added.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, founder and president of the Harlem-based National Action Network (NAN), said “whether it’s life experience, race, background or otherwise, New York was built on a foundation of diversity and, thanks to Governor Hochul’s leadership, that foundation has already become a pillar of her administration with the selection of Brian Benjamin as our state’s next Lieutenant Governor”.

He said that from his early work to build affordable housing in Harlem as a community leader, to his advocacy as a long-time member of NAN, to his efforts as a senator to solve the issues threatening the health and well-being of New Yorkers, like the opioid crisis, Benjamin has made a career of tackling the problems that have prevent far too many working families from lifting themselves up.

“This is a fantastic choice, and I look forward to helping both Governor Hochul and Senator Benjamin begin this next chapter in New York’s history,” Rev. Sharpton added.

Dr. Hazel N. Dukes, president of the New York State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the oldest and largest civil rights organization in the United States, said that “from his work helping fight the opioid crisis to his work to help minority and women owned businesses thrive, Brian Benjamin has spent his career focused on the issues that impact everyday New Yorkers, and I am so excited to see him continue that work as our state’s lieutenant governor.

“In just a few days, Governor Hochul has already set New York on a path for success, and this selection only further solidifies that point.  I am so excited to begin working with the governor’s administration to move New York forward and extend my sincerest congratulations to Senator Benjamin.”

Guyanese-born New York State Senator Roxanne Persaud, who represents the largely Caribbean 19th Senate District in Brooklyn, New York hailed Benjamin’s ascension.

“Congratulations to my Senate colleague Brian Benjamin on his appointment as Lieutenant Governor of New York,” Persaud told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC).

“He has been an outstanding senator, and I know that he is ready to work alongside Governor Hochul on the plans to rebuild our state, as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I will miss him in the Senate as a colleague and friend, and as part of the Guyanese delegation, but I am looking forward to working with him in his new role to achieve great things for our state.

“Brian is capable and qualified to be a member of the team that will move us forward,” she added.

Benjamin had unsuccessfully run for New York City Comptroller in June’s Democratic primary in a field that included Corey Johnson, the speaker of the City Council, and Councilman Brad Lander, who emerged triumphant. Benjamin placed fourth, behind Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, a former CNBC television anchor.

Benjamin says on his website that he was born in Harlem “to a Caribbean mother who came to this country seeking new opportunities.”

“Though they didn’t have a college education, his parents were fortunate enough to find well-paying union jobs, which allowed them to provide Brian and his siblings with a middle-class upbringing,” according to the website.