WHITE PLAINS, New York — Gov. Kathy Hochul attributed her team's shoddy vetting of former New York Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin, who resigned amid scandal earlier this month, to the "compacted" transition period — while simultaneously saying she took "full responsibility" for the debacle.

Hochul, who ascended to the governorship when former Gov. Andrew Cuomo departed due to sexual harassment allegations, said she will enact a "very different experience with [her] vetting" as she attempts to replace Benjamin, adding that "information that has now surfaced" about him would have led to a "different decision" had Hochul's team known of his alleged misconduct.

"I was still lieutenant governor, so all the vetting ... was not under my jurisdiction. It occurred under the then-existing administration," Hochul told News12 in her first one-on-one interview since hitting the campaign trail. "So we didn't have a large team, and so I don't make excuses. I take full responsibility."

The New York Democrat declined to name candidates she was considering to become her running mate, saying only that she needs to select "the right person who shares [her] passion for public service."


"I'm going to take the time I need to make the right decision. ... One thing from our last experience I know is that I won't be pressured into a decision any sooner than we're ready," she said in the segment that aired on local New York stations Monday night, noting that "a lot of people" approached her campaign about the vacancy.

Hochul is in a legal quandary given New York state bylaws mandating that Benjamin, who was selected as the Democratic Party's nominee for lieutenant governor heading into the fall elections, appear on the ballot unless he moves out of state, dies, or seeks another office — none of which he appears poised to do. The governor said she was "getting this settled right now" when asked about her limited avenues for choosing a new running mate.

Benjamin stepped down from the lieutenant governorship on April 12, just hours after he was arrested on charges of federal bribery conspiracy pertaining to his unsuccessful city comptroller bid.

Representatives for the Democrat, who served as lieutenant governor for roughly eight months, vehemently denied the allegations.

"This case is an unprecedented attempt to criminally charge an upstanding state leader for routine fundraising and support of a nonprofit providing needed resources to Harlem public schools," attorneys Barry Berke and Dani James of Kramer Levin said in a statement at the time.


Hochul has positioned herself as a much-needed cleansing force to sweep out corruption in Albany, earning the backing of the Democratic Party at its state convention earlier this year. But Cuomo, who denied all claims of wrongdoing, has signaled he could challenge Hochul, whose poll numbers have been sinking in recent weeks, with an independent bid in November, arguing his successor has failed to deliver policy wins for New Yorkers.

The Democratic primary will take place on June 28.