There hasn’t been a minute since I’ve lived in this area when I haven’t been represented in government by Maurice Hinchey. First he was the state assemblyman, the guy who took on the garbage industry for its nefarious connections and careless treatment of hazardous waste; whose connection to environmental causes and local accessibility helped awaken many Vietnam-battered boomers to political possibilities and realities. He lost his first election to H. Clark Bell, then returned in 1974 to defeat the Woodstock Republican assemblyman and it was clear sailing after that. Since then he has run every two years, mounted the increasingly expensive efforts to stay in office every other year, nine times to the state assembly and then ten more times for congress — in all, including the first loss, 21 elections in 40 years, 20 wins in a row.
He has proved to be the kind of representative who has always had the guts to say exactly what he felt needed to be said, regardless of whether it was a popular position or not. An anti-war, unreconstructed liberal who never recanted a position, he nonetheless was able to resist being marginalized by centrists and the right wing and rose to powerful positions, first in the state assembly as chairman of the Environmental Conservation Committee, and then in congress as a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee. He’s had his famous battles with Fox News and has given as good as he got. He’s been proven right time and again, from this perspective, especially in his stand against the Iraq war.
So now, battling colon cancer (his office says he’s got it beaten after more procedures recently), he’s chosen to step aside at the end of the year at the age of 73. Someone will take his seat but no one will fill his shoes, not by a long stretch, not for a long time.
And just a note about that. There already has been much speculation about who would seek to take his place in congress. But you have to remember that New York State is losing two seats in congress and we are awaiting a reapportionment. With no incumbent, the 22nd district looks to be a likely target to be gerrymandered out of existence. To the north of us, Republican Chris Gibson is the representative, to the southeast of us, Republican Nan Haworth has John Hall’s old district. We could be split between them with the western end of the district, which stretches to Ithaca, being absorbed out there. That could make for a difficult run for potential challengers.++