ALBANY — Indicted ex-Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin will remove himself from June’s primary ballot as Democratic lawmakers opened the door Monday for Gov. Hochul to replace her disgraced running mate.

Despite initial reluctance, the Dem-led Legislature approved a controversial bill allowing a candidate to remove their name from the ballot if they’ve been arrested or are facing criminal charges.

Benjamin, Hochul’s hand-picked lieutenant governor, was indicted on federal corruption charges and resigned last month.

The very specifically-worded measure, penned by Hochul’s office, narrowly passed the Senate 33-29 with several Democratic defections and prompted intense criticism from all sides of the political spectrum.

“New Yorkers expect and deserve fair elections and that means elections where everyone plays by the same rules,” Ana Maria Archila, a progressive activist and candidate for lieutenant governor, told the Daily News. “The governor is abusing her power and forcing a bill at the last minute… to change election law and (is) interfering with a fair election that is already underway.”

Despite ending his campaign, Benjamin’s name was slated to still appear on the Democratic primary ballot on June 28 since he was nominated by the party earlier this year.

The bill passed on Monday enables the former Harlem state senator to take his name off the ballot and a committee on vacancies made up of top New York Democrats, including party chairman Jay Jacobs and former City Council speaker Christine Quinn, can now swap in another candidate.

In a pre-recorded video statement, Benjamin maintained his innocence and said he will “sign the necessary paperwork” to remove himself from the ballot.

“I fully expect to exonerated of these false charges and look forward to serving my community again when that time happens,” he said. “However, until I have the opportunity to clear my name I will not be able to serve, therefore making it unfair to the voters of this great state for me to remain on the ballot.”

Benjamin faces charges of bribery, fraud and falsifying records related to an alleged scheme involving illegal campaign donations and state grants.

Earlier in the day, Hochul said she was happy about the change but offered no hint of who she may name as her new lieutenant governor or running mate.

“I’m very pleased that my partners in government agree that this is an important step to take,” she told reporters at a Bronx housing event. “The expectation is that it will be accomplished today and that will create the necessary vacancy for there to be someone… that goes before the committee on vacancies.”

Hochul, who previously served as lieutenant governor, is seeking a full term in office after replacing disgraced former governor Andrew Cuomo last summer.

The measure passed the Assembly 82-57 following heated debate between Hochul’s fellow Democrats and Republicans who cast the bill as little more than a political favor.

“Just let the process work as it has for nearly 250 years” Assemblyman Andy Goodell (R-Jamestown) argued on the floor of the chamber.

Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt (R-Lockport) slammed the Democratic lawmakers who voted to approve the measure.

“Every Legislator who supported this pathetic deal should be embarrassed,” he said.

Currently on the ballot in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor are former City Council member Diana Reyna, running alongside Rep.Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.) and Archila, running with city public advocate Jumaane Williams.

Gubernatorial candidates and their lieutenant governor picks run separately in New York’s primaries but are coupled up by party for the general election.

“This is a tailor-made bill for the situation,” Reyna said during a press conference earlier Monday. “It is an act of desperation, and when people are desperate, people make mistakes.”

Working Families Party state director Sochie Nnaemeka also voiced her displeasure with lawmakers who supported the measure.

“The bill to address Brian Benjamin’s presence on the primary ballot is not dealing with a state emergency, of which we have plenty, but rather a response to a political embarrassment,” she said. “And the Legislature is diminishing itself by changing the rules—in the middle of an election—solely to clean up this mess.”

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