Michelle Hinchey hopes to follow father’s footsteps to state legislature

Mchelle Hinchey speaks on the grounds of the Senate House on Monday. (Photo by Dion Ogust)

On a sunny Monday morning in Uptown Kingston, Michelle Hinchey officially launched her campaign for state Senate, flanked by a Who’s Who of local Democratic elected officials, and standing in the same spot where her father — a legend in local politics — launched his political career 47 years earlier.

In her Sept. 23 kickoff campaign speech on the grounds of the Senate House, the 31-year-old Hinchey embraced the legacy of her father, the late Maurice Hinchey, and promised to bring a fresh perspective and strong voice for the “upstate way of life” to the Senate’s Democratic majority.

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“I’m running for Senate to be an upstate voice in the Senate majority, making sure that much-needed funds come back to our communities and that everyone has a seat at the table,” said Hinchey, addressing a crowd of about 80 supporters, many of them either elected or appointed officials or those hoping to become elected this fall.

Hinchey is running for the 46th State Senate District seat occupied by Republican George Amedore Jr. The district covers all of Greene and Montgomery counties and portions of Ulster, Albany and Schenectady counties.

Amedore, 50, served in the state Assembly from 2007 to 2012 before winning the 46th Senate District seat in 2014. Since then he has defeated a series of Democratic challengers, despite Democrats holding an enrollment advantage over Republicans in the district.

Before Hinchey can take on Amedore, she will likely be challenged in a primary next June by Jeff Collins of Woodstock. Collins, a former entrepreneur and founder of the Hudson Valley Sudbury School, had announced his own candidacy for the seat earlier this year.

The show of support for Hinchey from Democratic elected officials did not deter Collins. In a statement released Monday, Collins said that he would remain in the race and looked forward to debating Hinchey on the issues ahead of the primary. 

“Our democratic process is fundamentally rooted in the belief that we should all have a voice and the ability to express our voice with our vote,” Collins stated. “Party primaries allow constituents the opportunity to make educated decisions as to which candidate’s vision most closely aligns with theirs and which candidate has the experience and ability to translate that vision into reality.”

Michelle Hinchey grew up in Saugerties and is a 2009 graduate of Cornell University’s School of Labor and Industrial Relations. After graduating college, she moved to New York City to pursue a career in communications representing tech and media companies. She serves on the board of directors of the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development and previously worked with the anti-fracking group Environment NY. Speaking after her campaign announcement, Hinchey said that she had remained connected to upstate causes, despite feeling that she had to leave the area to build a career.

“I’ve always felt that wherever I was it was important to give back to my community,” said Hinchey. “And my community was not where I was forced to move for work, it’s where I grew up.”

Maurice Hinchey served nine terms in the state Assembly and 10 in the House of Representatives before retiring in 2012. Hinchey died in November 2017 following a long struggle with frontotemporal dementia. The late congressman was known for his steadfast advocacy for environmental causes and his close attention to constituent services and securing funding for struggling upstate communities.

Michelle Hinchey said she had put off her political ambitions in order to help her family during her father’s illness, but had been inspired to carry on his legacy in part after meeting U.S. Rep Antonio Delgado (D-Rhinebeck) during his 2018 campaign. Hinchey, in fact, was one of the speakers at Senate House rally for Delgado that year headlined by former vice president Joe Biden.

“When [Maurice Hinchey] passed I felt it was incredibly important for me to pick up his mantle and be a voice for working families and our communities,” said Hinchey. “When I met Antonio I saw somebody who really embodied the same values that I carried.”

Delgado introduced Hinchey at the event, where he talked about her lifelong dedication to progressive causes and their shared commitment to Upstate issues like better access to broadband internet, better schools in rural areas and protecting the area’s scenic beauty and natural resources. Hinchey, Delgado said, represented a “fresh, new generation of leadership.”

“We need people in government who actually care about people,” said Delgado. “People with integrity, people with high moral character, people who believe that government has a responsibility to work for the people and not special interests. This is who Michelle Hinchey is. She cares and she knows how to get things done.”

Delgado was joined at the podium by state Assemblyman Kevin Cahill (D-Kingston) who took over Maurice Hinchey’s seat in the legislature in 1992 and former congressman John Hall. Other speakers included County Executive Pat Ryan and Jazmin Kay, leader of Ulster County Young Democrats. Also present where two freshman state senators — James Skoufis of Woodbury and Jen Metzger of Rosendale — who helped Democrats secure a majority in the Senate for the first time in decades when they flipped districts long held by Republicans.

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