New York 22nd District
In colonial days, the Catskills looming over the mid-Hudson River Valley were a mysterious place where Rip Van Winkle was said to have fallen asleep for 20 years after drinking with nine pipe-playing dwarfs and where Indians lurked in the days of James Fenimore Cooper. Eventually, the area became part of a great pathway west, along the Erie Lackawanna and Delaware & Hudson Railroad lines, with engines steaming over giant viaducts and along narrow river valleys through the hills and mountains. Later in the 19th century, huge kosher hotels were built in Sullivan County in the Catskills, the Jewish resort area popularly known as the Borscht Belt. These thrived when Jews were excluded from other resorts, but fell on hard times in the late 20th century, as discrimination against Jews waned. Some survive to cater to Russian-Jewish immigrants and a kosher clientele. Today, the Catskills are no longer on great transportation lines. There is little passenger train service, and the area is bypassed by major airlines. In recent years, there have been attempts, none successful, to open an Indian casino in the Catskills.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The sprawling 22nd Congressional District of New York includes all of Sullivan and Ulster counties and most of the Catskills area. It covers part of the Hudson Valley and parts of the counties along the New York-Pennsylvania border. Its two population centers are on its east and west ends. On the east are Newburgh, Poughkeepsie, and Kingston, old towns in the Hudson Valley. Poughkeepsie is the home of Vassar College, and Kingston, in Ulster County, was the political base of George Clinton, the former longtime governor and two-term vice president. This area has been growing relatively rapidly, with new residents from metro New York. In the west, connected to the rest of the district by a narrow corridor of southern-tier townships, are Binghamton and Ithaca, where Cornell University sits high above the Cayuga River and is by far the largest employer in Tompkins County. Ithaca has attracted a number superlative designations in recent years, including “lesbian-friendliest,” “best fly-fishing,” one of the “greatest places to retire,” and “largest share of commuters who walk or bicycle to work.” The district also includes Bethel, site of the 1969 Woodstock music festival, one of the watershed events of the hippie counterculture era. Most of this territory voted Republican for many years, though Sullivan County, with the only large rural Jewish population in the United States, has long been Democratic. Today most of the area is Democratic, especially the university towns of Ithaca, Poughkeepsie, and New Paltz in Ulster County, and the actual Woodstock (not where the festival was held), a favorite country house location for New Yorkers. Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama won the district in 2008 with 59% of the vote.