Gov. Kathy Hochul has tapped Sen. Brian Benjamin as her lieutenant governor, a move that drew praise from fellow Democrats and criticism from others who call the Harlem lawmaker a “radical leftist.”
Benjamin who ran for state comptroller in this year’s state elections, has served as the New York State Senator for District 30 since 2017. District 30 is made up of Harlem, East Harlem and parts of Manhattan.
Benjamin was born in Harlem to a Caribbean mother. He and his siblings had a middle-class upbringing. After graduating from high school in New York City, Benjamin went on to earn his undergraduate degree in public policy from Brown University and his MBA from Harvard Business School.
Afterwards he spent three years working in investment banking at Morgan Stanley before returning to Harlem to build affordable housing. He helped create over a thousand units of environmentally sustainable, affordable housing at a Minority and/or Women owned business enterprise.
Benjamin also served as Chair of Community Board 10 and the Land Use Committee in an effort to keep Harlem rent affordable. As a member of the state Senate, Benjamin has established himself as one of the leaders in criminal justice reform and affordable housing.
Back in 2018 he successfully pushed for the divestment of the state public pension funds from private prisons, and the next year he introduced a bill to ban state-chartered banks from such investments. Benjamin also proposed to keep rent-controlled apartments affordable, which was part of the Tenant Protection Act of 2019, the largest expansion of tenants’ rights in decades.
“We are encouraged that Governor Hochul appointed Senator Benjamin, a supporter of parole justice, as the state’s next lieutenant governor,” said Jose Saldana who is the Director of the Release Aging People in Prison Campaign. “These common-sense reforms are critical to the state’s COVID-19 recovery, will save the state over half a billion dollars annually, and will begin to address racism in our state’s criminal justice system. The time is now to reunite our families, heal communities torn apart by mass incarceration, and move New York toward redemption over permanent punishment.”
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins congratulated Benjamin and believes that Hochul’s decision will bring real change to New York.
“Governor Hochul’s decision to appoint Senator Brian Benjamin as Lieutenant Governor underscores her administration’s commitment to bringing new voices and representation to the Executive Chamber. Senator Benjamin has been a consistent ally here in Albany, working tirelessly on behalf of his constituents and fighting every day for a better New York.”
However not all were fond of Benjamin’s selection as it drew criticism from some Republicans. GOP gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin said that Benjamin “championed cashless bail, fought to defund the police and supported tax hikes.”
Nick Langworthy, the Republican state chairman, called Benjamin a “radical leftist.”
“This reckless pick proves that Hochul represents a continuation of the same failed policies and underscores the urgency of electing a Republican governor in 2022 who will bring common sense and balance to New York,” Langworthy said.
When Governor Hochul announced Benjamin as her lieutenant governor, she said, “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. 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.”