Who is Brian Benjamin? New York State Senator to Become Lieutenant Governor

Brian Benjamin, a New York state senator, has been selected by New York Governor Kathy Hochul to be lieutenant governor, according to a person familiar with the administration's internal discussions, the Associated Press reported.

Benjamin has been a vocal advocate for prison reform and defunding the police, and initially ran on promises to close Rikers Island, New York City's large and troubled jail complex.

He sponsored a bill to close Rikers Island, and also introduced legislation to divest New York's public pension fund from private prisons. State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli later ended the fund's holdings in private prisons.

Benjamin also helped push through a law to criminalize the use of police chokeholds that result in injury or death after the death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer in Minnesota in 2020.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Brian Benjamin and John Liu
New York Governor Kathy Hochul reporedly has chosen state Senator Brian Benjamin, a Democrat from Harlem, to be her lieutenant governor. Above, state Senator John Liu takes a photo with Benjamin at the Voting is Justice Rally on June 20, 2021, in New York. Brittainy Newman, File/AP Photo

The person familiar with the administration's internal discussions spoke with AP on condition of anonymity because Hochul had yet to announce her decision publicly. She is expected to do so this week.

If he accepts the job, the 44-year-old Benjamin would become the state's second Black lieutenant governor. The Democrat, whose district includes most of central Harlem, has focused his legislative career on criminal justice reform and affordable housing.

The role of lieutenant governor in New York has long been largely ceremonial, with the officeholders traveling to ribbon-cutting ceremonies and town halls across the state. But two recent lieutenant governors have become governor following the resignations of their predecessors.

Hochul, a Democrat, became governor Tuesday when Andrew Cuomo resigned after facing numerous allegations of sexual harassment, which he denied. David Paterson, the state's first Black lieutenant governor, became its first Black governor when Eliot Spitzer resigned after revelations that he had patronized a prostitute.

Hochul's and Benjamin's offices didn't immediately return messages seeking comment.

Benjamin is the son of Caribbean immigrants. He was born in Harlem Hospital and raised in the neighborhood, earning a bachelor's degree in public policy from Brown University and an MBA from Harvard Business School. He later worked as a developer of affordable housing. He is now senior assistant majority leader in the state Senate and chair of the budget and revenue committee.

This year, Benjamin sponsored a bill making it harder to incarcerate people for minor parole violations. The legislation passed the Senate and Assembly but hasn't been delivered to the governor, according to the Senate's website.

Benjamin unsuccessfully ran for New York City comptroller this year.

Gov. Kathy Hochul
New York Governor Kathy Hochul reportedly has chosen state Senator Brian Benjamin for the position of lieutenant governor and is expected to make the announcement this week. Above, Hochul speaks after taking her ceremonial oath of office at the New York State Capitol on August 24, 2021, in Albany. Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images