Hinchey relaunch

Hinchey relaunch

If the election for state senate in the 46th district was held on Monday on the lawn of the Senate House in Kingston, Democratic candidate Michelle Hinchey would win by about 99-1. Or so sayeth the sooths.

But it was Sept. 23, a bright, warm day where about 100 Democrats (and maybe one Republican spy) gathered to hear fellow Democrats celebrate the past and welcome the future. They hope.

It was on this very Senate House site that Michelle’s father, the late assemblyman and congressman Maurice Hinchey, announced his run for Congress in 1992 and, after 20 years, his retirement. Hinchey died in 2017 and is buried on the fringe of the Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center in Mt. Tremper.

Hinchey, like her father, will launch her political career well up the ladder. John Hall, who mc’d the 45-minute event, started on the Saugerties school board, won a seat on the Ulster Legislature and then two terms in Congress. But then, Rep. Antonio Delgado, who spoke glowingly of the candidate from prepared text, also started at the top, after a grueling seven-way primary and a closer than it should have been election in 2018. Which is to say, there’s no set formula.

Hinchey’s early start as “the candidate” does, however, suggest a strategy aimed at warding off would-be challengers within her own party next year. The Democratic nomination in a winnable senate seat in a presidential year where Democrats will turn out in hordes, has to be on more than one would-be candidate’s radar screen.

Eleven-term Assemblyman-for-life Kevin Cahill, 63, now the old hand among party faithful, gave some indication of just how juicy this low-hanging plum could be for a well-organized Democrat with name recognition, widespread support and plenty of money.

The 46th district, currently represented by three-term Republican George Amedore of Rotterdam in Montgomery County, gives Democrats a “near 20,000” enrollment advantage, Cahill told a crowd eager for raw meat. According to the latest reports from the state board of elections, it’s closer to 16,500, still, on paper, a considerable advantage for Democrats. And it will increase by thousands next year.

So, how did 2018 Democratic nominee Pat Strong of Kingston lose the election by more than 7,500 votes in a year where 60 percent turned out to Blue-Wave Republicans? The answer is, elections aren’t run on paper. “Amedore country” remains hostile territory for Democrats given that most of their district-wide enrollment advantage hails from Ulster. Hinchey, like Strong, can sleepwalk through Ulster. Rude awakenings await north and west of the border. 

It’s fair to say that in Michelle Hinchey, 31, Democrats will field a competitive candidate but there’s just so far a legacy campaign can go. She looks pretty good on paper, and in person, too. She spoke with confidence and passion, hitting pretty much all the (liberal) talking points in a brief address which she mostly wrote herself.

Fired-up Democrats can smell victory. “She will blow Amedore out of the water,” predicted Esopus Supervisor Shannon Harris.  Ah, sunny days, but to paraphrase former heavy weight champ Mike Tyson, most plans fall apart with that first punch in the face.  Amedore, as Strong discovered to chagrin, is a load.

Hinchey will make similar announcements around the district in the coming weeks, though perhaps without distinguished Democrats like senators Jen Metzger of Ulster and James Skoufis of Orange as backdrops. Plans are already in place for fundraisers, with a kick-off in the Albany portion of the district at an unspecified date. There, the Hinchey name, even almost a decade after he left office, could still be gold. Strategically, a bulging campaign war chest can serve to scare off the faint-hearted.

Nothing has been heard from Amedore, who had nothing to say when she kicked off her soft opening with a district-wide “listening tour” a few months ago. M’thinks he’d had better start paying attention. The enemy is at the gates.