This past Tuesday, Lt. Governor Brian Benjamin was arrested on charges related to campaign finance fraud. The five-count indictment alleges that while he was a State Senator, Benjamin conspired to direct $50,000 in State funds to a Harlem real estate developer’s charity. In exchange, the developer gathered thousands of dollars in illegal contributions to Benjamin’s 2020 Senate campaign and his unsuccessful 2021 bid for New York City comptroller. According to the indictment, Benjamin is being charged with bribery, wire fraud, and conspiracy.
Governor Hochul, who selected Benjamin to be her lieutenant governor less than a year ago, announced that he was stepping down immediately “while the legal process plays out.”
Despite Benjamin’s resignation, he is likely to remain on the Democratic primary ballot in June due to restrictive New York State election laws.
“There are only three ways to get off the ballot: death, declination, or disqualification,” said John Conklin, a State Board of Elections spokesman. Disqualification is only allowable under a three circumstances:death, moving out of state, or running for another office.
Shortly after Benjamin’s resignation, State Democratic Party chairman, Jay Jacobs, said he would “explore every option available to seek a replacement for Brian on the ticket.”
Per the State Constitution, the Senate Majority leader takes on the Constitutional duties of Lt. Gov. when a vacancy occurs until if and when an interim replacement is appointed by the Governor.
New York State Budget Finalized
Last week, New York enacted a record-breaking $220B State budget, one week past the constitutional deadline. As expected, the budget included hundreds of policy changes on top of fiscal allocations, including expanding access to childcare, gas tax relief, and legalizing alcohol to-go from restaurants. Key issues that stymied negotiations, but were ultimately resolved include: changes to Bail Reform, funding for a new Buffalo bills stadium, and an increased minimum wage for home health care workers and expansion of state funding for childcare. Click here for more information.
In other New York news, the recent mass shooting on a NYC subway will offer fodder to Governor Hochul’s political opponents and others opposed to recent criminal justice reforms. Reports that the alleged the shooter suffers from mental illness will draw the attention of advocates for the disabled and law enforcement.