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Hochul criticized for asking lawmakers to help remove disgraced Lieutenant Governor from the ballot

Governor Kathy Hochul and Lt. Governor Brian Benjamin hold a roundtable meeting in Brooklyn on gun violence in mid-March.
Don Pollard
Governor Kathy Hochul and Lt. Governor Brian Benjamin hold a roundtable meeting in Brooklyn on gun violence in mid-March.

Governor Kathy Hochul is getting some blowback from a bill that would remove the disgraced former Lieutenant Governor and her running mate, Brian Benjamin, from the June primary ballot.

Benjamin resigned as lieutenant governor earlier this month after he was indicted on federal corruption charges. But under state law, he has to remain on the June primary ballot as Hochul’s running mate unless he dies, runs for another office, or moves out of state.

Benjamin is not planning to do any of those things.

Hochul says she supports a bill, sponsored by Assemblywoman Amy Paulin that would create a solution. It would allow a candidate to remove their name from the ballot if they are charged with a crime, have a life-threatening illness, or have resigned from the office that they were originally running for.

“Right now there is a need for legislative solution,” said Hochul. “That corrects what is really a strange part of our law.”

Hochul is pressing the democratic- led state legislature to pass the bill. But she’s getting criticism from republican, and democratic political opponents.

GOP state chair Nick Langworthy says if the legislature were to agree to the measure they would be “aiding and abetting the cesspool of Albany corruption,” and he says republican candidates will “make sure every voter knows it”.

A democratic primary opponent, Long Island Congressman Tom Suozzi, says it would be a “secret backroom deal” that he says would come with a political price.

Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins says she’s reluctant to back a measure that would change the rules in the middle of an election.

“I really, really don’t like to change rules in the middle of the process,” Stewart-Cousins said.

Stewart-Cousins says the governor called to ask her to support the bill, and she says she’s willing to talk about it. But so far, the measure has not been introduced in the Senate.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment and interviews newsmakers. Karen previously worked for WINS Radio, New York, and has written for numerous publications, including Adirondack Life and the Albany newsweekly Metroland.