Apparently, the congressional career of County Executive Mike Hein is now on hold for at least another decade. Hein will not run for Congress this year, he told a Capital District TV audience last week, which was definitely not the announcement some pundits were expecting. Hein said he took too seriously his oath of office as county exec. He started a four-year term on Jan. 1.
Buy that and there’s a rusty old bridge between Kingston and Port Ewen I can sell you.
Hein’s decision to sit tight, after a year of intense exploration and no small expenditure of time and money, was a close call.
There was foremost the prospect that Congress was an opportunity that may not present itself again in a political lifetime, which is to say, the next reapportionment in 2022. The 19th congressional district a Brooklyn-based federal judge dictated under reapportionment, is winnable by either Democrats or Republicans as it’s almost evenly divided in political enrollment. Republican Congressman Chris Gibson from Columbia County, a first-termer in a new district, is as vulnerable now as he likely will ever be. Hein and his brain trust, of, course knew that.
The geographic and population centers in the 11-county district converge in part of Dutchess and all of Ulster counties, the two about equally divided (around 180,000 each). Just about half the residents in the new district live in these counties.
This time around, how people actually voted in recent elections was considered as part of the line-drawing process. The formerly Republican district has been trending Democratic in the past decade.
That this is a presidential year becomes more obvious every day. Bitterly divided Republicans will face a relatively united (for Democrats) party led by a battle-tested incumbent. Barack Obama may not run as well in New York as back in the halcyon days of “Yes, We Can,” but he’ll be strong enough to give any candidate on his coattails a 10 to 15 percent boost.
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand will be pounding the pavement, pulling out Democrats. At last report, Gillibrand, after easily winning election two years ago, had some $8 million in campaign cash, and it’s only March.
Fund-raising would not have been an issue for Hein, what with thousand-dollar-a-plate Chuck Schumer firmly in his protégé’s corner.
So if the stars lined up, why didn’t Hein, with nothing to lose except maybe the election, take the plunge? Hein probably would have matched up against Gibson in the general election, if he got that far. His cost-cutting, balanced-budget “taxpayer-first” record as county executive would have resonated with a restless electorate worried about the economy, deficit spending and too much government.
However, what resonates on the roll-back-government right falls on red ears on the left, where Democratic primaries are decided. I heard one astute observer say a week ago: “I can’t wait until they run that first TV ad of a mean-looking Hein (if they can find such an image) with the announcer intoning, ‘He laid off 300 people in the pits of a depression and sold the nursing home to balance his budget. Do you want this guy’s finger on the trigger on Medicaid or Social Security?’”
Slideshow image: Mike Hein announces his run for county executive a year ago this week. (Photo by Dan Barton)