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Hochul criticized for asking lawmakers to help remove disgraced lieutenant governor from the ballot

4-26 Hochul govs office.jpg
Mike Groll
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Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul
Gov. Kathy Hochul is seen at an appearance in Plattsburgh on April 26, 2022.

Gov. Kathy Hochul is getting some blowback over a bill that would remove Brian Benjamin, the disgraced former lieutenant governor and her running mate, from the June primary ballot.

Benjamin resigned as lieutenant governor earlier this month after he was indicted on federal corruption charges. But under state law, he has to remain on the June primary ballot as Hochul’s running mate unless he dies, runs for another office, or moves out of state.

Hochul said she supports a bill, sponsored by Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, that would create a solution. It would allow a candidate to remove their name from the ballot if they are charged with a crime, have a life-threatening illness, or have resigned from the office that they were originally running for.

“Right now, there is a need for a legislative solution ... that corrects what is really a strange part of our law,” Hochul said.

Hochul is pressing the Democratic-led State Legislature to pass the bill. But she’s getting criticism from Republican and Democratic political opponents.

GOP state chair Nick Langworthy said if the Legislature were to agree to the measure. they would be “aiding and abetting the cesspool of Albany corruption,” and he says Republican candidates will “make sure every voter knows it."

A Democratic primary opponent, Long Island Rep. Tom Suozzi, said it would be a “secret backroom deal” that would come with a political price.

Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said she’s reluctant to back a measure that would change the rules in the middle of an election.

“I really, really don’t like to change rules in the middle of the process,” she said.

Stewart-Cousins said the governor called to ask her to support the bill, and she said she’s willing to talk about it, but so far, the measure has not been introduced in the Senate.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.