Even as the news that NY 22nd Congressman Maurice Hinchey plans to retire at the end of 2012 is spreading, the question of who will replace him looms large among Democrats and Republicans.
The loss of Rep. Hinchey will take a great toll on New York. His 2 decades as a Congressman built up a large cache of political power, and allowed a number of pork barrel earmarks to flow into the Southern Tier. Those earmarks for Binghamton University and the Southern Tier may be needed at this time more than ever as the district recovers from the second 100-year flood in 5 years. That is on top of the dirge of an economy and the continuation of the 60 year exodus of business and population from New York.
Whomever takes over as the representative of the Southern Tier of NY in Congress will need to have broad shoulders. That individual will have to run with the ball in motion, and fight hard for any improvement.
So far, the only well known option is George Phillips of Endwell NY, who ran against Rep Hinchey three times. The last race during the 2010 mid-term elections coming down to the quickly arranged visit by former President Bill Clinton as the deciding factor. We have covered Phillips extensively during the 2010 election in prior articles.
He is not the only option for Republicans though. Tom Engel has also declared for the Southern Tier. Engel is from Ulster County, and a lawyer with his own practice.
Though the Southern Tier has been in Democrat hands for 2 decades under Rep. Hinchey, the 2010 mid-term elections and the growth of the Tea Party have made the area far less of a sure bet for Democrats. There is no clear successor in the Democrat field. Especially since Rep. Hinchey is one of the most liberal members of Congrress. Add to that the fact that redistricting of New York, due to the loss of 2 seats based on the Census, will change the well structured boundaries of the NY 22.
Therefore the race is on. Both for Democrats and Republicans. The seat held by Rep. Hinchey is up for grabs this year. The warchest of funding held by Rep. Hinchey is last reported as only $51,000 by OpenCongress.org. The 2010 mid-term election cost $1.5 million to defend the seat.
For Republicans, who have an edge in that George Phillips has some name recognition and the fact that there is another choice in Tom Engel, there is no less urgency. A foothold established early could make a major difference in voters depending on the choice of Democrats. Considering that any choice by Democrats will require a ton of television and print ads, the sooner fundraising starts the more even the playing field.
Whomever is chosen, this will be an interesting election for New york and the Southern Tier.