BUFFALO, N.Y. — The indictment and resignation of Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin has sent a wave of uncertainty through Albany politics with just over two months until the June primary.
Benjamin was accused by federal prosecutors Tuesday of taking part in a campaign contribution scheme during his run for NYC Comptroller as a State Senator for Harlem. His alleged crimes include bribery and wire fraud.
"And we allege that Benjamin repeatedly lied on the vetting forms that he filled out before he was appointed lieutenant governor," said Damian Williams, a U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Hours after Benjamin turned himself in and those charges were unveiled, in a statement Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that she had accepted his resignation effective immediately.
"While the legal process plays out, it is clear to both of us that he cannot continue to serve as lieutenant governor. New Yorkers deserve absolute confidence in their government, and I will continue working every day to deliver for them," Hochul added in her statement.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins will serve as acting lieutenant governor in the meantime.
Benjamin's Attorneys James D. Gatta and William J. Harrington issued their own statement shortly after Hochul. It said the now-former lieutenant governor would also be suspending his campaign.
Their statement read in part, "after today's charges, Brian will resign his duties as lieutenant governor and suspend his campaign. He will focus his energies on explaining in court why his actions were laudable - not criminal."
Benjamin had filed to run for lieutenant governor in the New York Democratic primary on June 28 along with three other candidates, two of whom have their own gubernatorial running mates. But with Benjamin essentially pulling out of the race via resignation, what happens to his spot is perplexing.
More than likely his name will remain on the ballot because the date to remove a candidate from the ballot has passed.
The only other options, according to UB Political Science Professor Shawn Donahue, are "basically death, disqualification or he runs for another office so unless one of those things happens it looks like he'll be on the ballot along with the preferred running mates for Tom Suozzi and Jumaane Williams."
Moving out of state is one way a candidate can disqualify themselves for an election but given the criminal case looming over Benjamin, that option is unlikely a solution.
Benjamin will be listed on a separate ballot line from Gov. Hochul in the primary, as she attempts to win her Democratic bid to remain in office. Hochul will also not be required to fill his spot. How the fallout involving her former lieutenant governor may impact her chances will solely depend on what voters think.
While registered Democrats will be able to vote for Benjamin, if Hochul is to win the gubernatorial primary, her running mate could end up being one of the other three candidates who filed with the State Board of Elections to run for lieutenant governor: David Englert, Diana Reyna, and Ana Maria Archila.
David Englert is currently the mayor of the Village of Sodus which is located in Wayne County about halfway between Rochester and Syracuse along Lake Ontario.
Diana Reyna is both a former New York council member, and deputy borough president for Brooklyn. She has paired up with U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi who is attempting to secure the Democratic bid for governor.
Lastly is Ana Maria Archila. She is Jumaane Williams' pick for a running mate and is a community activist based in New York City. Former Buffalo mayoral candidate India Walton tweeted her support for Archila on Tuesday amidst the news involving Benjamin.