Budding dynasty

About a month ago, Michelle Hinchey, the 31-year-old daughter of former assemblyman and congressman Maurice Hinchey, announced that she was considering a run for state senate next year. I waited a while for public opinion to percolate, however unscientific and informal word of mouth might be. Mostly, it’s been more about curiosity, some intrigue, a bit of nostalgia.

Hinchey died two years ago after a 38-year career in elected office when his precocious only daughter was approaching 30. The late congressman had two sons by a previous marriage. Hinchey was 34 when he first ran for assembly in 1972. He was elected to the assembly in 1974 and to congress in 1992, retiring in 2011. He is buried on the grounds of the seldom-visited (at least in my experience) Maurice Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center in Mt. Tremper.

I can’t call Michelle Hinchey’s announcement a launch even if a news-starved local media treated it like the second coming of senate candidate Hillary Clinton in 2000.  All she actually committed to was a Hillary-esque “listening tour” of the 46th senate district presently represented by three-term Republican George Amedore of Rotterdam. 

I covered Clinton’s “listening” stop in Midtown Kingston that year. It was awful. Then-first lady Clinton refused to answer a single question. “I’m just here to listen,” she said. 

On paper, with its near-even split between Democrats and Republicans, the 46th looks like a toss-up. As a practical matter, which Hinchey surely knows, Amedore has buried his last two challengers, one of whom, Patrice Courtney of Kingston, is a close advisor to the would-be Democratic senate candidate.

With the district covering eight mostly Democratic towns in Ulster and rock-solid Kingston, Hinchey, if she does decide to run, should get off to a flying start in her home county. But as Courtney can attest from bitter experience, it gets really ugly once a Democrat crosses the county line and heads north by northwest.  Amedore may not show up often in Ulster – I like to call him Lonesome George – but he’s like horse apples around the rest of the district, home to two-thirds of voters, most of them Republicans. That she may not hear her father’s name all that often on her listening tour in those parts, little of which was included in his congressional district, should in no way discourage her from getting known in her own right.

We haven’t had a resident state senator from Ulster County since Arthur Wicks (Wicks Law) of Kingston retired undefeated in 1956. Maybe it’s time.