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Senator Brian Benjamin is set to make history as the second Black man to become lieutenant governor of New York, The Root reports.

Benjamin holds degrees from Brown University and Harvard. He started working at Morgan Stanley before becoming a managing partner at Genesis Companies, a real estate company centered on affordable housing. In 2017, he ran for state senate, becoming the Democratic Party’s pick for the seat and defeating the GOP opponent. He was also a former candidate for New York City comptroller.

As a senator, he has been at the forefront, spearheading several issues, namely those centered around criminal justice. Benjamin led the efforts to end cash bail, reform discovery, end solitary confinement, and reform parole laws. He has also been instrumental in sponsoring bills allowing banks to divest from private for-profit prisons and has been a staunch advocate for defunding the police.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul is the state’s first high-ranking female chief executive. After Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s resignation, she recently stepped in and named Benjamin as the next lieutenant governor Thursday, making him only the second Black man ever to hold the title.

Benjamin’s presence will help Hochul gain traction with New Yorkers as she seeks a full four-year term in 2022. Public advocate Jumaane Williams has already announced a potential gubernatorial run, and Letitia James, current state attorney general’s name, has also been thrown in the hat. If confirmed, both Benjamin and Hochul would still need to run independent campaigns in the 2022 election to receive full terms. Benjamin’s presence on a Hochul ticket will provide the new governor the stamp of approval she needs to be seen as a serious force on diversity and criminal justice issues.

Michael Blake, a former assemblyman who endorsed Benjamin in the comptroller primary, spoke about the significance of his appointment, emphasizing the importance of his qualifications despite his ethnicity.

“I think it’s important to realize that Brian is talented, and he is also Black. People are always paying attention to talent even when there is no success. He ran for city comptroller – I think he was the most qualified – and lost, but at the end of the day, God had bigger plans for him,” Blake said.

As lieutenant governor, Benjamin would be responsible for promoting the governor’s policies, presiding over the state Senate, with the power to cast tie-breaking votes under certain circumstances.

Original News Source:  BOTWC

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