New York Democrats are left with a challenge: how to get Brian Benjamin off the ballot box

Brian Benjamin is officially stepping down as deputy governor of New York, following his arrest and abrupt resignation, but it will take some legal maneuvering to get him off the ballot papers in the Democratic primary – if that can be done at all.

Democratic officials are struggling to think of ways to reboot Benjamin from the primaries after surrendering to federal authorities over five criminal charges on Tuesday, just two months after becoming the party’s official – who arrived with an automatic ballot box.

There are only three options for making this happen, according to the state election law: a party will have to appoint Benjamin to another position, he will have to leave the state, or – most morbidly – he will have to die before the votes are printed.

Given the time constraints and roadblocks in the state election law, Democrats will have to think fast: the ballot papers must be printed 45 days before the June 28 primary election, meaning any effort to oust Benjamin will have to take place before then.

“There’s not much (Benjamin) can do,” said Sarah Steiner, a New York election attorney. “He is at the ballot box. The acceptance and rejection times have already ended.”

Election law leaves limited options

Benjamin had already accepted the Democratic Party’s appointment as deputy governor long before his arrest. This is why the possibilities for removing him from the ballot box are limited, according to John Conklin, a spokesman for the state election council.

A candidate can reject a voting position himself for several different reasons. Benjamin has already missed his window to reject his party’s vocation on his own, but he could still try to reject his seat if he were nominated for another elected post.

But it is so complicated and close to a primary election and it could end up in court. Because Benjamin is not a lawyer, he is even more limited because he can not be a candidate for most of the judges’ positions – breach parties have often used in the past to make a candidate disappear.

Another option is disqualification, according to Conclin. This would happen if Benjamin were no longer eligible to serve in the post, for example if he left the country – which may be the easiest option, but it will require cooperation from Benjamin himself.

Leaving the state will require Benjamin, who lives in Harlem, to personally alert the New York City Council to his departure from the state. Under the state constitution, anyone running for office in the state must meet the minimum requirement – be at least 30 years old and have lived in New York before applying.

But Steiner said it was not a gift either. It is possible that federal officials could get involved with Benjamin who tried to move before his trial.

“Yes, he can leave the country, but I do not think the federal government intends to let him leave the country with a pending indictment,” she said.

Hochol, who spoke on Wednesday on the WRYC Brian Lerer program, said Benjamin’s move is an “option.”

“I have no control over it, but it’s the option,” she said. “I think his death is another one, and a run for another job. I wonder how limited the possibilities are, but it goes back to outdated laws.”

Did a federal judge open the door?

After pleading guilty Tuesday to five federal offenses, U.S. Judge Judge Una Wang of Manhattan allowed Benjamin to be released ahead of his trial on $ 250,000 bail.

It restricted his travels to New York City and the surrounding area, allowing for two exceptions: parts of Georgia and Virginia, in which Benjamin is believed to have a family. This could give Benjamin an opening to change his home address to one of those countries, which would disqualify him from the ballot box.

There is one more option, thanks to the courts. The new legislative lines of Congress and the state in New York are tied to the court system, thanks to a lawsuit by the Democratic Republic that accuses Democrats of running them in their favor. If the courts force the state to return its by-elections on June 28 to account for the amendments, lawmakers could decide to reopen the petition process for a vote – though it is unclear if this will also apply to races across the state.

So far, if the Democrats have a plan to keep Benjamin out of the primaries, they will not give up.

Late Thursday afternoon, the chairman of the state Democratic committee, Jay Jacobs, issued a statement in response to Benjamin’s resignation.

“My thoughts are with (Benjamin) and his family as he addresses the serious allegations he now has to deal with,” Jacobs said. “As a party, we must continue to focus on the achievements of Governor Hochul who have done so much for the people of our country.”

Nick Langworthy, the Republican state chairman, thought otherwise.

“A few days ago, (Kochul) went on to say that she has ‘full confidence in Benjamin,'” he said. “She does not have the discretion or moral code to serve as governor.”

Benjamin is accused of giving a $ 50,000 state grant to an association in Harlem set up by a real estate developer. Others, according to plaintiffs.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stuart-Cousins ​​Dee-Yonkers will now assume the responsibilities of the deputy governor – who is largely limited to serving as Senate president – until Vouchol elects a replacement.

Hochul appointed Benjamin as deputy governor in August, in one of her first major decisions after being promoted to governor’s office following the resignation of former governor Andrew Cuomo. Benjamin represented the 32nd Senate District in Harlem, the same seat of David Patterson, who was later elected deputy governor in 2007.

At the time, Wojciech’s election of Benjamin was seen as a way to balance the Democratic card ahead of the 2022 primaries – a pairing of a white governor from Buffalo with a black deputy governor from Harlem.

Hank Schinkoff, a longtime Democratic political adviser, said Hochol’s decision was off-limits from the start, at least from a political standpoint. Instead, she should have looked toward downtown Brooklyn, he said.

“Geographically, he was the wrong choice and politically he was not the best choice,” Schinkoff said. “Why? Harlem does not have the political juice he once had.”

Benjamin’s lawyers, for his part, said he was suspending his political campaign. But in a joint statement they gave no hint as to whether he would cooperate in any effort to remove his name from the ballot box.

“After today’s allegations, Brian will resign as deputy governor and suspend his campaign,” his attorney, James Gata and William Harrington, said in a joint statement. “He will focus his energies on explaining in court why his actions are commendable – not criminal.”

Benjamin’s arrest and his uncertain future highlight another oddity in the country’s election campaign: Unlike the presidential election, the candidates for governor of New York and the deputy governor of New York are running separately in the by-elections. The winners then join as a single ticket to the November election.

If Benjamin had stayed in June’s primary and won the race, he would join along with the Democratic governors’ primary winner in the November election.

Hochul is facing a primer from representative Tom Soatzi of Long Island and New York Juman Williams. They both have their own preference for deputy governor: Williams faces activist Anna Maria Archila, while Swazi faces former New York City council member Diana Reina.

As early as last week – before his arrest and the filing of the indictment – Hohol stood behind Benjamin and said: “He will be on the ticket.” Until Thursday evening, after his arrest, Kochul said that “it is clear to both of us that (Benjamin) can not continue to serve as deputy governor.”

However, if Benjamin stays at the ballot box, it raises the possibility that he will lose the deputy governor’s primaries even if Kochul wins the governor’s primaries. In that case, Hochul would be paired as a card with Reina or Archila – both of whom had been heavily criticized by the governor and might turn out to be a thorn in her side.

All of this may leave Hochul with the choice to try to form a relationship with one of the deputy governor’s other candidates, Steiner said.

“I think (Benjamin’s) is going to be at the polls,” she said. “I think the most likely thing to happen is that Hochul will cancel his support and may support one of the other deputy governors’ candidates.”

Outside the court in Manhattan, where Benjamin announced his confession, Archila said Benjamin needed to assess whether he could continue to do the job.

“If he is unable to perform the duties of deputy governor, I think he needs to think about whether he is able to meet the commitment he made to the people of New York,” Archila said. “And if his answer is no, he must resign.”

Includes reports from David Cruz and Brigid Bergin.

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