Could it be Diana Reyna? Hochul on the hunt for new lieutenant

Congressman Tom Suozzi and Diana Reyna at their running-mate announcement in Brooklyn on Feb. 16.
Photo Courtesy Suozzi Campaign

Gov. Kathy Hochul Wednesday denied speculation that her campaign is trying to poach lieutenant gubernatorial candidate Diana Reyna from U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi’s ticket, following Brian Benjamin’s resignation as lieutenant governor Tuesday after he was arrested on federal bribery charges.

“I have not even heard that rumor,” Hochul said during an interview with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Wednesday morning. “So, no. This is very early in the process. Obviously, there’s a lot of people to consider, and really going through the background vetting process to determine the best best route for it. So no, there’s been absolutely no decisions made. It is too early in the process.”

While it’s too late for Hochul to get another running mate to qualify for the June primary ballot, she could potentially pair-up with Reyna or Ana Maria Archila, who’s running on a ticket with Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. Even though both Reyna and Archila are already running on other tickets, Hochul could conceivably bring one of them over to her campaign, as candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run separately in the primaries.

Although Benjamin presumably will no longer be campaigning for lieutenant governor, his name will still likely remain on the June primary ballot. This is because he received the state Democratic Party’s nomination in February, which means there are only a couple of ways he could be removed from the ballot – these include his death or if he moved out of state.

Hochul said her campaign is looking into ways to get Benjamin removed from the ballot so her ticket doesn’t suffer but doesn’t know if it’s possible.

“That’s something we’re examining right now,” Hochul said. “So, I don’t know that answer at this moment. But it’ll all be clear, as soon as they have a chance to do a dive into what our options are at this time.”

In a joint virtual press conference hosted by Suozzi and Reyna Wednesday morning, Reyna was faced with similar questions from reporters about whether she would abandon her current running mate and join Hochul’s campaign. Reyna, a former City Council member and deputy borough president to now Mayor Eric Adams, said she’s already endorsed Tom Suozzi for governor.

“These are hypotheticals, until primary day, we don’t know what will happen, right?” Reyna said. “So, the opportunity to be able to receive the support of the public, voters and elected officials who want to endorse my campaign. I welcome everyone. After the primary, should I continue, I will work with whomever is Governor.”

In response to a separate reporter’s question about whether she would accept an offer from Hochul to fill out the rest of Benjamin’s current term if she was asked, Reyna said she hasn’t yet received a call of that nature from Hochul.

“I just want you to know, I haven’t received a call like that,” Reyna said. “So, I’m not sure where these rumors are coming from. The opportunity to be able to continue to run on this ticket and be focused is a priority.”