EDITORIAL: Legislature pulled a fast one to help Hochul

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Here’s a test voters should pose to state lawmakers as they help Gov. Kathy Hochul get a new running mate and improve her chances of winning election to her job:

Would they have taken the same action if an incumbent Democratic governor wasn’t involved? Would they have taken the same action if it applied to a Democratic candidate for governor other than the current governor? Would they have taken the same action if a Republican ran into the same problems?

If the answer to all of these questions is no — and we all know it is — then the action taken Monday by the Democratic controlled Legislature to manipulate the election process in Gov. Hochul’s favor can be seen as nothing more than a blatant abuse of legislative authority to help a powerful politician stay in power. It’s like Cuomo never left.

At stake is the political fortunes of Hochul, who is seeking a full term as governor this year against a raft of opponents inside and outside her own political party.

Shortly after she became governor in August, Hochul selected former state Sen. Brian Benjamin to be her lieutenant governor and running mate. But last month, Benjamin was arrested and indicted in an election fraud scheme and abruptly resigned, putting Hochul in a tough spot politically.

She doesn’t want to be associated with a running mate who’s under indictment. Nor does she want voters to remember that she’s the one who picked him in the first place.

So she wants him off the ticket, naturally.

But state election law sets strict deadlines and criteria for when a candidate can withdraw from a ballot, a deadline that long ago passed for the upcoming Democratic primary for governor.

So under ordinary circumstances, Hochul would be stuck with Benjamin as her running mate on the ballot, like it or not.

If only she could somehow find a way to change the election rule at the last minute so Benjamin could legally withdraw from the primary ballot before it’s certified later this week. If only … If only …

Luckily for her —and her alone — the Legislature is heavily controlled by Democrats, and the Legislature has the power to change the law to let Hochul toss Benjamin and his political baggage off her re-election train.

And that’s exactly what it did Monday.

If lawmakers had any integrity, they’d have waited until after this election season passed before changing the law, so as not to show favoritism and to ensure a fair election.

But no. Acting with a degree of decisiveness and urgency they would never employ if the candidate was an unfavored Democratic challenger or a member of an opposing political party, they decided to blatantly help Hochul out of her political predicament.

This last-minute maneuver by the Legislature to help Hochul is flat-out wrong —ethically, politically and morally.

And its unfair to other candidates who have to follow the rules and who don’t have the power of the Legislature behind them if they get in a bind.

Yet it’s so typical of the kind of politics we’re used to seeing in Albany.

Some things, it seems, never change — no matter who’s in office.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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