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Lawmakers move to knock Brian Benjamin off ballot

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After striking a deal late last week on a bill to remove Brian Benjamin’s name from the ballot, lawmakers in both chambers moved swiftly to pass it Monday in Albany.

“I am very pleased that my partners in government agree that this is an important step to take,” said Gov. Kathy Hochul at an unrelated event in the Bronx. “The expectation is that it will be accomplished today. And that will create the vacancy to allow someone to go through the committee on vacancies. They can start doing their work then."

When asked if that will happen in the next couple of days, Hochul said it would.

“This just makes sense. It’s an antiquated law when you think about it,” Hochul said. “Every time I talk to a voter they can’t believe that that is even the law. So, why not fix it now since it came to light. And they know that a governor deserves to have a running mate of her choosing.”

Benjamin resigned last month as lieutenant governor over a corruption scandal, but because of quirk in election law, his name was going to remain on the ballot for the June primary.

The new law gives Benjamin the option of removing his name, something he said he plans to do in a social media post Monday.

"I fully expect to be exonerated of this false charges," Benjamin said, speaking from Harlem. "I also believe withdrawing from the ballot is the right thing to do. And that is why I will sign the necessary paperwork."

Republicans forced Democrats to defend the unusual change to election law so late on the electoral calendar.

“Why should someone have this fast track, around the people access to the ballot that those two Democrats who are currently running for lieutenant governor did not enjoy?” asked Republican state Senator Andrew Lanza from the floor of the Senate during debate Monday night.

Something known as the Committee on Vacancies, established after the Democratic State Convention in February, will choose Hochul’s new running mate as early as Tuesday. That committee is headed by Democratic State Chair and Hochul ally, Jay Jacobs.

“Instead of focusing on the issues at hand, Kathy Hochul is focused on getting rid of her lieutenant governor candidate that she is not further embarrassed and trying to replace someone else,” said Democrat Tom Suozzi, who is challenging Hochul in next month’s primary.

The deadline for printing the ballots is in just two days, so the committee on vacancies does not have a lot of time to play with here. Asked on her way out the door who her new running mate would be, Hochul quipped, “I’m not going to tell you.”

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