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Hinchey exit may save Higgins or Hochul pain of redistricting
The Buffalo News (NY) ^ | January 19, 2012 | Jerry Zremski

Posted on 01/20/2012 7:51:47 PM PST by neverdem

WASHINGTON — Rep. Maurice Hinchey, a senior House Democrat from the Catskills, is retiring at the end of this year — a move that could end up saving the congressional seat of either Rep. Kathleen C. Hochul, D-Amherst, or Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo.

Hinchey’s spokesman, Mike Morosi, told the Poughkeepsie Journal on Wednesday that the 10-term lawmaker will announce his retirement today in Kingston. Hinchey, 73, had surgery last week for colon cancer, and Morosi said the lawmaker is now cancer-free.

Because New York will lose two congressional seats in a reapportionment that the State Legislature must approve this year, Hinchey’s retirement could have statewide implications.

Legislators traditionally have tried to protect incumbent lawmakers, with legislative veterans such as Hinchey given priority. That could have boded ill for Hochul or Higgins, who have less seniority than Hinchey, if the Catskills lawmaker had opted to run for re-election.

Now, though, legislators will be able to carve up an open Democratic seat if they choose. They are expected to eliminate one Democratic seat and one Republican seat as the state’s House delegation shrinks from 29 to 27 members.

A legislative task force is working on the redistricting plan. Assemblyman John J. McEneny, an Albany Democrat who serves on the task force, said today that he did not expect the proposed congressional lines to be released for several more weeks.

McEneny declined to comment on the Hinchey retirement, but redistricting experts in Washington said it’s possible Hinchey’s retirement will be the latest game-changer in the reapportionment process.

“The conventional wisdom is that Hinchey’s retirement helps the game of musical chairs because there’s one less player,” said Nathan Gonzales, deputy editor of the Rothenberg Political Report. “But because redistricting in New York is such a closed process, it’s tough to gauge the ultimate impact.”

Hinchey represents New York’s 22nd District, which snakes southward from Ithaca, along to Binghamton and then eastward to Poughkeepsie, including a wide swath of the Catskills.

Eliminating the district poses a challenge to Republicans, said David Wasserman, House editor of the Cook Political Report.

That’s because the district includes several strongly Democratic communities.

Wasserman said it’s even possible that Hochul’s district, which stretches from Amherst eastward to the Rochester suburbs, could be expanded to include the Democratic enclave of Ithaca.

Wasserman stressed, though, that the New York redistricting forecast has already experienced twists and turns, from the resignation of Republican Rep. Chris Lee of Amherst last February to Hochul’s election three months later to the surprise election of Republican Rep. Robert Turner in New York City later in the year.

“This is not the last twist,” Wasserman said.

Gonzales, meanwhile, said it was difficult to speculate on the outcome of redistricting because of the secrecy of the process in New York State.

Trying to figure out redistricting in New York, he said, “is like trying to figure out what happened to the Bills after Week Six.”

News Albany bureau chief Tom Precious contributed to this report.

TOPICS: Extended News; Politics/Elections; US: District of Columbia; US: New York
KEYWORDS: higgins; hinchey; hochul; redistricting

1 posted on 01/20/2012 7:51:52 PM PST by neverdem
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