ALBANY – Gov. Hochul “doesn’t have the ethical standing” to name a replacement for her recently indicted former lieutenant governor, according to Rep. Tom Suozzi.
The Long Island Democrat argued Tuesday that the governor should be barred from picking a new second-in-command in the wake of Brian Benjamin’s resignation and arrest on federal corruption charges last week.
“Kathy Hochul has disqualified herself from appointing a new lieutenant governor,” Suozzi said during a Zoom press conference. “She knew when she chose her first LG that he had ethical issues. But she put her own political considerations ahead of good, sound judgment.”
Suozzi, facing off against Hochul in the June 28 Democratic primary, said the vetting process that failed to flag Benjamin’s alleged misdeeds reflects the governor’s lack of leadership.
He suggested Hochul hold off on naming a replacement until at least after the primary.
“She has proven that she cannot handle this, and she needs to let the people decide, they will do a far better job than she has,” he said.
Democratic voters could have some interesting choices to make as Benjamin’s name may remain on the primary ballot against Suozzi’s running mate, former City Council member Diana Reyna, thanks to a loophole in New York’s election laws.
Benjamin, charged with fraud and bribery for his alleged role in a scheme meant to drum up contributions for his failed 2021 city comptroller race, has suspended his campaign. However, his name can only be removed if he runs for another office, dies, or moves out of state.
Suozzi accused Hochul “and her henchmen” of trying to pressure Benjamin to relocate to another state to clear a path for a new lieutenant governor to appear on the ballot in June.
Hochul has said she is weighing options for replacing Benjamin on the ballot and told WAMC on Monday that “a lot of people have expressed interest” in the largely ceremonial post that she held for seven years before replacing Andrew Cuomo as governor last summer.
Suozzi, meanwhile, shrugged off questions about a possible investigation into his finances by the House Ethics Committee and sought to clarify recent comments he made in support of Florida’s controversial new “Don’t Say Gay” law.
Last week, Suozzi took heat after describing the Florida law to discourage discussions about sexuality and gender in classrooms as “reasonable” during an appearance on WABC’s Bernie & Sid in the Morning.
During Tuesday’s presser, Suozzi said he opposes the law as well as Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and insisted he had been “very inartful in the way that I spoke.”
“I want to be very clear. I want to clear up any misunderstandings. I oppose Gov. DeSantis,” Suozzi said. “I oppose the Don’t Say Gay bill, full stop. I oppose them. I fully support LGBT families.”
Critics argue that the law will discriminate against gay and queer students.
Suozzi also dismissed concerns about his own potential ethics issues after a complaint filed by the Campaign Legal Center accused him of failing to disclose $11 million in stock transactions.
The House Ethics Committee announced last week that it has extended a probe into Suozzi’s finances and will “announce its course of action” by July 29, a month after the primary.
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Suozzi said the matter is “working its way through the process” and added that he files an annual financial disclosure on “every single one of the stock transactions (his) broker does.”