Brian Benjamin is sworn in as New York lieutenant governor

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Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — New York Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin thanked Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul for choosing him as he was sworn in Thursday to join her 2-week-old administration.

“You asking me to join the administration is making it abundantly clear that you want upstate and downstate, every ethnicity, every culture to feel included,” Brian, formerly a state senator from Harlem, said after taking the oath of office at Hochul’s New York City office.

Hochul, the state’s former lieutenant governor, took over as governor on Aug, 24 following Andrew Cuomo’s resignation over sexual harassment allegations that he has denied.

Hochul is the first woman to serve as the state’s governor and a Democrat from western New York. She pledged to choose someone from New York City to be her lieutenant governor. She announced her choice of Benjamin on Aug. 26.

Benjamin, the Harlem-born son of Caribbean immigrants, is New York’s second Black lieutenant governor. David Paterson, also a former state senator from Harlem, was elected lieutenant governor in 2006 and took over as governor in 2007 when Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned in a sex scandal.

Hochul praised the 44-year-old Benjamin as an example of the American dream, saying he “started out with little, rose to where he is today but now turns back and doesn’t think about himself, he thinks about how he can serve not just his senatorial district but now he’ll be helping me serve 20 million New Yorkers.”

Benjamin, a graduate of Brown University and Harvard Business School, ran unsuccessfully for New York City comptroller this year. He has served as senior assistant majority leader in the state Senate and chair of the body’s budget and revenue committee.

A special election will be held to fill his Senate seat.

Benjamin said Hochul has asked him to focus on areas including boosting COVID-19 vaccination rates and upgrading conditions in New York City’s public housing system.

Benjamin said Hochul “wants to make sure that I am part of the team that goes around the state to make sure that people know that the vaccine is the answer and that if we’re going to get through this COVID epidemic we’re going to do it together and the vaccine is the key.”