Political expert: Gov. Hochul ‘bruised’ by budget decisions, Lt. Gov.’s arrest and resignation

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ROCHESTER, N.Y.(WHEC) — Political experts say they think Gov. Kathy Hochul is "bruised" following her budget decisions and the resignation of her Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin.

Benjamin resigned Tuesday, just hours after his arrest in a federal corruption investigation. Experts say they don’t believe this "scandal" was enough to destroy Gov. Hochul’s campaign, but they think some familiar names will use this as a way back onto the ballot, like Andrew Cuomo.

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"It might be the kind of thing that would induce Andrew Cuomo to maybe try to run as an independent,” said local political expert Timothy Kneeland.

Kneeland said he thinks Gov. Kathy Hochul’s political campaign is “bruised”, but not broken. From budget decisions to this latest fraud investigation into her now-former lieutenant governor.

“The way she decided some of those late minute additions, the bail reform took some progressive democrats by surprise so they’re already unhappy with Hochul and sort of comparing her to Andrew Cuomo being a little top centrist for someone who promised much but is delivering less,” Kneeland said.

Benjamin is accused of bribery, fraud and falsifying records. There were reports of subpoenas that had been issued to Benjamin regarding the financial issues even before Hochul picked him. She made a comment on the investigation last week.

"I have the utmost confidence in my lieutenant governor," she said Thursday. "This is an independent investigation leading to other people and he’s fully cooperating. He is my running mate.”

Kneeland said while this isn’t ideal, he doesn’t think it’s a political nightmare for Hochul. Those opposing her like Congressman Lee Zeldin, are lacking a stamp in the Empire State.

"In the general election, I mean look, the thing is, most people don’t know who Lee Zeldin is, so the problem for the Republicans is the lack of name recognition. The independence might be somewhat disgusted by yet another scandal in the Democratic party and they could break for republicans that’s possible, not necessarily likely,” Kneeland added.

We asked Kneeland if he thought this investigation would derail Hochul in the primary and elections. He said not at this point, because there is no cover-up on her part and no indication that she’s connected to Benjamin’s fraud case. Despite stepping down, according to state law, Benjamin will remain on the primary ballot, as the endorsed candidate of the Democratic Party.