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State Sen. Brian Benjamin jumping in race for New York City comptroller

2019-09-12

ALBANY — State Sen. Brian Benjamin is setting his sights on the city comptroller’s office.

The Harlem Democrat told the Daily News he’s laying the early groundwork for a run for the citywide seat in 2021 by filing papers Thursday with the New York City Campaign Finance Board.

The former real estate developer and reality TV star, who appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Network’s “Love in The City” in 2014, sees himself as uniquely qualified to be the city’s chief fiscal officer, tasked with running the city’s $200 billion-plus pension funds, auditing city agencies and monitoring the Big Apple’s finances.

“I think it’s important to have a comptroller who is qualified, interested in being a fiscal, independent watchdog of the resources for the pension-holders and for the city of New York," Benjamin said. “You really need someone who is financially-savvy and has some experience on that level and I think I have that.”

A Harvard Business School graduate who worked for a time as an investment banker with Morgan Stanley, Benjamin joined the Senate in 2017 and currently chairs the chamber’s Budget and Revenues committee.

The 42-year-old said he remains “enormously focused” on his current role as a state legislator and will run for reelection next year, but noted that the nature of citywide elections means he has to start laying the groundwork now for a shot at the controller’s office in 2021.

“Because of the process, if you’re considering a citywide seat, you really have to start two to three years out to get out there and talk to people, raise the resources you need to raise, in order to be competitive,” he said.

The lawmaker will make a final determination as to whether to remain in the controller race following the election next November.

Benjamin says he would hold city agencies accountable for spending by doing deep-dives into accounting books and bring original ideas, such as exploring the possibility of a public bank and investing pension funds in businesses that reflect the “spirit of the city,” such as minority and women-owned businesses and affordable housing, to the role.

So far, a pair of term-limited New York City Council Members, Brad Lander, a Democrat from Brooklyn, and Helen Rosenthal, a Manhattan Dem, have entered the race. Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Queens) also filed paperwork with the campaign finance board for a run last month.

Lander has far outpaced the competition when it comes to fundraising, raking in over $360,000 since announcing his bid in January. Rosenthal and Weprin have raised just over $90,000 and $60,000, respectively, according to the Campaign Finance Board.