State law makes it difficult for Democrats to take former New York Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin’s name off the June 28 primary ballot, even though he was indicted on bribery charges.
Now, Gov. Kathy Hochul is embracing a solution: Changing the law.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday in Albany, Hochul acknowledged Benjamin – a Democrat who resigned following his arrest earlier this month – hasn’t embraced a move out of state, which would have disqualified him from the lieutenant governor race and solved a headache for Hochul, his now-former running mate.
With her options limited, Hochul said she has spoken to legislative leaders about taking action. She urged them to change the law to allow a candidate to remove themselves from the ballot if they have been indicted or if they are facing serious illness.
“The law is the law until it’s changed, and let’s just talk about how much sense it makes right now to have the law changed,” Hochul said after receiving the endorsement of the state nurses union. “I’m asking the legislators to do just that.”
Under current state law, a candidate for office who has already accepted a ballot position can only get off the ballot if they die, are disqualified (such as by moving out of state) or if they’re nominated for another position.
But Hochul’s plea to change the law has received a mixed reaction in the Democrat-led state Legislature.
Assemblymember Amy Paulin, a Democrat from Westchester County, introduced a bill that would do just what Hochul is asking. It has the support of Common Cause/NY, a good-government organization that says keeping Benjamin’s name on the ballot despite him suspending his campaign is insulting to voters.
But the state Senate has been less receptive.
“I’ve been very clear. I really, really, really don’t like to change rules in the middle of a process and certainly in the middle of an election,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins told reporters Tuesday. “[Hochul] did speak to me last night and so, you know, we will continue the conversation.”
Senate Democrats were expected to discuss the measure in private Tuesday night.
Hochul’s political opponents, meanwhile, have been highly critical of her effort to change the law.
Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt, a Niagara County Republican, said lawmakers would be going along with a “corrupt scheme” if they take action to remove Benjamin from the ballot.
“The law isn’t flawed, Kathy Hochul’s judgment is — and if the Legislature goes along with this crooked scheme, so is theirs,” Ortt said in a statement.
Rep. Tom Suozzi, a Long Island Democrat running against Hochul for governor, urged lawmakers to avoid cutting a “backroom deal” with Hochul.
“How long are they willing to carry Kathy Hochul’s water?” Suozzi said in a statement. “She made these messes, she needs to clean them up herself.”
Suozzi is running alongside former New York City Councilmember Diana Reyna as his preferred lieutenant governor. New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who is also running in the gubernatorial primary, is running alongside activist Ana María Archila.
In New York, candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run in separate primaries, with the winners joined as a single ticket in November. Under Paulin’s bill, the state Democratic Committee’s vacancy panel would be able to replace Benjamin on the ballot if the bill were approved in the coming days.
Ballots have to be printed by mid-May in order to send them to overseas military personnel, in accordance with federal law.
Source : https://gothamist.com/news/hochul-urges-lawmakers-to-pass-bill-that-gets-brian-benjamin-off-ballot