Photo Credit: Assemblyman Eric “Ari” Brown
L to R: Caleb Brown, Jake Brown, Penina Brandeis Brown, future daughter-in-law Emily Becker, Assemblyman Ari Brown, friends Michelle and Mickey Edery, Ezra Brown and Zach Brown.

The Hochul Dilemma

Just when it appeared Governor Kathy Hochul was running a smooth governmental train, her lieutenant governor, Brian Benjamin, pulled the emergency brake and the train practically derailed. It may have even derailed Hochul’s brief tenure as governor.

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Hochul was criticized for accepting a bad budget compromise, selling out on her core principles of transparency and eliminating government corruption, and now is faced with a political problem never before seen in state government.

After the resignation of her number two, the Buffalo Democrat is forced to find a new sidekick who might be in the position of only serving until the end of the year. Benjamin must remain on the ballot until at least the June 28 primary election unless he moves out of state or the 45-year-old dies. Some state political leaders are trying to get Benjamin to move out of state where he has family and is court sanctioned.

Conspicuously absent from commenting on the Benjamin matter is Attorney General Letitia James and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, a former state Assemblyman.

A Good Government group has found a legislator to sponsor a measure that might resolve the problem in the future.

“The resignation of former Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin surfaces a longstanding problem that Common Cause/NY has raised many times before: the overly restrictive rules for ballot declination. This is a problem for New Yorkers who will confront a ballot that does not reflect the reality of the field, and may end up throwing away their vote on a candidate who is not running for office,” said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause/NY. “It’s simply unfair and wrong to present the voters with a false choice. Centuries after Tammany Hall, it’s time to finally change the law.”

Assemblywoman Amy Paulin (D-Scarsdale, Westchester County) has proposed a bill that reads, in part:

“A person designated as a candidate for nomination or for party position, or nominated for an office, may, in a certificate signed and acknowledged by him or her, and filed no later than May 1 for a primary election or September 1 for a general election, or 72 hours before the date for certification of the ballot for a special election, decline the designation or nomination only under the following extraordinary circumstances:

* The person has received a diagnosis of a life-threatening illness;

* The person has been indicted for a crime;

* The person has resigned the office for which they are nominated or designated to run for re-election, for whatever reason.”

Another political maneuver is to establish a third party, an idea being cooked up by state Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs. Two other candidates are running for lieutenant governor, both Hispanic women and both not ideologically in step with Hochul’s policies.

If a third party is successfully established, Hochul’s pick for her second lieutenant governor in less than eight months would have a shot as being her running mate for the November election. Stay tuned for more news from the ever-engaging soap opera, “As the Hochul Administration Turns.

 

It’s Brown Over Lobl for Assembly in Nassau County

More political news: On the same day Hochul was professing her admiration and support of Benjamin at a news conference declaring a settled state budget on Thursday, April 7, Eric “Ari” Brown was getting the news that he won an Assembly seat replacing Melissa “Missy” Miller who was appointed to fill a vacant seat on the Hempstead Town Board when Bruce Blakeman moved up to the post of county executive.

Brown, 54, is the first Orthodox Jew to be a member of the Republican conference. He joins three other Orthodox Jews in the Assembly, all Democrats – David Weprin and Daniel Rosenthal of Queens and Brooklyn’s Simcha Eichenstein. Brooklyn’s Senator Simcha Felder is the only Orthodox Jew in the upper house.

Brown is also the deputy mayor of Cedarhurst, a position he told The Jewish Press he will not relinquish while he serves in the Assembly. The village post pays approximately $11,000 a year. The state legislative salary is $110,000 per year.

Brown, a 30-year resident of Cedarhurst, is currently unmarried and the father of seven children and grandfather of two. He defeated 37-year-old David Lobl, a former Jewish liaison in the Andrew Cuomo administration, and served for six years before moving on to work for a governmental lobbying firm. He now runs his own firm, Asher Strategies.

When I would see Lobl at the Capitol he had a constant refrain – “no comment,” – even to the simplest of greetings such as “Hello, how are you?”

It appears it’s one and done for Lobl, who moved to Cedarhurst two years ago from Far Rockaway. Lobl, who lost in a district that has a Democratic enrollment advantage, is not planning to run again.

Brown will be sworn into office at the Capitol on Monday, April 25, after the votes are certified by the county Board of Elections and state lawmakers get back to Albany after a two-week break.

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Marc Gronich is news director of Statewide News Service. He also operates the website JBizTechValley.com. He has been covering government and politics since 1981. His Albany Beat column appears monthly in The Jewish Press.