Benjamin accepts nomination of lieutenant governor

New York Governor Kathy Hochul and New York Senator Brian Benjamin.
Office of the Governor of New York/File

Caribbean American New York State Lieutenant Governor, Brian Benjamin on Thursday accepted the nomination of the New York State Democratic Party for lieutenant governor.

The State Party voted unanimously at the New York State Democratic Convention, at the Sheridan Hotel in midtown Manhattan, to nominate Benjamin, 44, the son of a Guyanese mother and Jamaican father, as the party’s choice for lieutenant governor in this year’s election.

“I am honored to be endorsed by the New York State Democratic Party as their choice for Lieutenant Governor,” Benjamin, who was sworn-in in September as second-in-command to newly-installed New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, told Caribbean Life afterwards.

“I am looking forward to continuing to work with Governor Kathy Hochul and the rest of our unified ticket to get New York back on track,” continued Benjamin, who previously served as the New York State Senator for District 30, which encompasses Harlem, East Harlem and the Upper West Side in Manhattan.

During his swearing-in ceremony last September, after Hochul, 62, tapped him as lieutenant governor, Benjamin thanked Hochul “for putting your trust in me.

“New York State, I will do everything I can to make sure that those who are living at the margins, those who are struggling, those who are overlooked will have a seat at the table,” he said. “And we will make sure that there’s fairness, accountability and good practical decision-making that governs our activities.

“And thank you so much, Gov. Hochul, for this opportunity to serve,” Benjamin added. “I will not let you down. New York State, I will not let you down, either.”

Hochul said at the time that she had found “a person who knows what it’s like to struggle, to work hard, to make something of his life, and to now return his service to the community.

“That is, my friends, the American dream, how someone who started out with little rose to where he is today, but now turns back and doesn’t think about himself,” she said.

“He thinks about how he can serve not just his Senatorial district, but now he’ll be helping me serve 20 million New Yorkers,” the governor added. “It’s an extraordinary responsibility. I wouldn’t have asked you if I didn’t think you’re up for the task. And I know you are.”

During Thursday’s convention, Haitian American Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, chair of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, urged New York State Democrats to unite behind Hochul.

“The party should be unified,” said the daughter of Haitian immigrants, who represents the predominantly Caribbean 42nd Assembly District in Brooklyn.

Bichotte Hermelyn suggested that Hochul’s Democratic contenders in June’s Democratic Primary — New York City Public Advocate, Jumaane D. Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants, and Long Island Congressman, Tom Suozzi — give up their bid to replace Hochul.

“The vast majority of the people are behind Kathy Hochul,” she said. “So why create fights?”

Williams, who received 12.46 percent of the vote at the convention, to Hochul’s 85.5 percent, was equivocal about remaining in the race.

He said Thursday’s party vote was not representative of the larger community.

“It’s no surprise that today’s New York Democratic Convention functioned as a coronation for Kathy Hochul,” Williams told Caribbean Life afterwards. “But it’s an unfortunate reminder that while the governor (former Governor Andrew Cuomo) may have changed last year, the power structures, within the party and the state that enabled him, are very much intact.

“We cannot take the risk of trying to return to the old ways in this moment,” he added. “We need to build a new normal, and a new kind of Democrat to guide us there. Our goal at this event should be to uplift Democratic candidates, Democratic voters and democratic values. Instead, the leadership of the party has worked incessantly to shield the current power structures, status quo and power brokers from any dissenting voices.

“In spite of that, I’m proud that our campaign received double the amount of support at this year’s convention than we did four years ago, when we ultimately came within seven percent of victory, despite being outspent by the party machine by a factor of 10,” Williams continued. I’m running to challenge the systems in place and represent 20 million New Yorkers across the state, not the deep-pocketed donors and special interests that paid the governor US$20 million dollars to preserve the status quo.

“I’m an organizer by training and in the politics I practice; and so, I’m excited to begin the petitioning process, fueled by the people power of our growing grassroots coalition,” the public advocate said. “It’s an opportunity to meet New Yorkers where they are and hear about the issues they face, without charging them tens of thousands of dollars for access. I’m not going to let the way things have always been stand in the way of what they can be – a vision I’ll continue to share with New Yorkers.”

But an enthusiastic Hochul told Thursday’s convention: “I see Democrats of every race, creed, ethnicity, gender, who are with me in that arena – ready to fight for the very soul of our party and our state.”