Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D)
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.
Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D)
Elected: 1992, 9th term.
Born: Oct. 27, 1938, New York, NY .
Education: S.U.N.Y. New Paltz, B.S. 1968, M.A. 1969.
Family: Married (Allison Lee); 3 children.
Military career: Navy, 1956–59.
Elected office: NY Assembly, 1974–92.
Professional Career: Cement plant worker, 1959–64; NY St. Thruway toll collector, 1959–68; Analyst, NY St. Dept. of Educ., 1971–74.
The congressman from the 22nd is Maurice Hinchey, a Democrat elected in 1992. The son of a cement plant worker, Hinchey grew up in Greenwich Village in humble circumstances. After high school, he enlisted in the Navy at age 18 and served on a destroyer in the Pacific. When he got home, he worked in the cement factory for five years. But Hinchey wanted to go to college, and since his parents couldn’t afford to send him, he worked his way through as a New York State Thruway toll collector. After getting his degree, he was an analyst for the state education department. Then, in the Democratic year of 1974, Hinchey was elected as the first Democrat from Ulster County to the New York Assembly since 1912, and served for nine terms. When he ran for Congress, Hinchey called for national health insurance, a repeal of Reagan-Bush tax cuts for upper-income taxpayers and corporations, and “reindustrializing America.” His Republican opponent, Bob Moppert, a Binghamton moving company owner, campaigned on reducing government spending and trimming the size of the federal bureaucracy. Hinchey won 50%-47%.
|Maurice Hinchey (D-Ind-WF)||168,558||(66%)||($735,253)|
|George Phillips (R-C)||85,126||(34%)||($150,490)|
|Maurice Hinchey (D-Ind-WF)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (100%), 2004 (67%), 2002 (64%), 2000 (62%), 1998 (62%), 1996 (55%), 1994 (49%), 1992 (50%)
Hinchey has one of the most liberal voting records for a nonurban member in the House. He is frequently the leader of lost causes. In 2008, he co-sponsored a bill calling for the impeachment of President George W. Bush. When Republicans controlled the White House, he once sparked a House debate with a proposal to prohibit the private donation of food and beverages for official events at the vice president’s residence; it was defeated, with 54 Democrats voting no. In 2004, he was one of 16 House members voting against a resolution of sympathy for the victims of the September 11 attacks. He objected to the Republicans’ inclusion of “political” language with the “destruction of two terrorist regimes” in Afghanistan and Iraq, and called the measure “back-slapping, self-congratulatory.” Following an incident at a Rosendale street fair in July 2008, a local official of the National Rifle Association filed harassment charges against Hinchey for allegedly hitting him on the head following a heated exchange. An Ulster County judge dismissed the charges in November 2008.
Hinchey has been a vocal opponent of the war in Iraq, and condemned the “deplorable” humanitarian conditions that the United States had created there. With other Democrats, Hinchey organized the Future of American Media Caucus to “address critical media policy issues,” where he has advocated a return of the Federal Communications Commission’s Fairness Doctrine requiring equal time for differing political viewpoints. He says that the television networks give disproportionate airtime to conservatives on their Sunday morning talk shows.
On the Appropriations Committee, his focus has been ensuring the independence of the Food and Drug Administration from the pharmaceutical industry, and demanding that owners of oil and gas leases pay “fair market prices.” When Republicans in 2008 sought repeal of oil-drilling restrictions, Hinchey countered by seeking increased penalties for gas-price gouging and pressing for more use of renewable fuels. He joined the Defense Subcommittee in 2009, where his focus is seeking money for local defense contractors. Earlier, he directed several appropriations grants to the revitalization of downtown Poughkeepsie.
Hinchey was the subject of unfavorable press coverage in recent years when New York newspapers reported extensively on his more than 20 privately funded foreign trips to exotic places, ranking him among the top members of Congress who received travel gifts. The New York Post dubbed him a “junket junkie.” He has since cut back on his foreign travel.
Early in his House tenure Hinchey was a Republican target, but since the mid-1990s he has won re-election easily. His district became more secure after the 2002 redistricting with the help of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a friend of Hinchey’s from their time in the Legislature.