Hinchey Stepping Down, Won’t Discuss Wife’s DWI (VIDEO ADDED)

Retiring U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey wouldn’t address his wife’s Wednesday night DWI arrest in Albany at the news conference announcing he wouldn’t seek re-election in November.

“No ma’am,” Hinchey said when asked about Allison Lee Hinchey’s arrest supporters and aides jeered the question. Though Hinchey’s daughter was present for the news conference, Lee Hinchey was not there.

Hinchey, a Democrat, did say that redistricting was not a major factor in his decision to step down.

Hinchey says he’s “very aware” of the redistricting process and called for the district to be left “largey intact.”

“It’s going to be a challenge,” he said of redistricting. “If the district were to be maintained, it would have to expand in a lot of ways.”

The lawmaker also went through a litany of battles fought and won, including the dredging of PCB-laced muck from the Hudson River

Hinchey did cite his age (he’s 73). He was also diagnosed with colon cancer, making the rigors of a campaign all the more difficult.

“I said to myself, this is very clear, this is the end,” Hinchey said. “Twenty years is along enough.”

But the cloud hanging over his announcement today was the Wednesday night arrest of his wife, Allison Lee-Hinchey, who was charged with a DWI and a suspended licenses by Albany police. She was also charged with driving while using a cell phone.

Update: There’s more in the arrest report. Lee Hinchey told the officer at the scene that she had a glass of wine at a “work function” and had been texting when she rear-ended another vehicle. She was also wearing high heels and full-length coat.

She was previously arrested for drunken driving in May.

According to the arrest report, a police officer smelled alcohol from Lee Hinchey’s breath and she appeared unsteady on her feet.

Lee Hinchey released a two-sentence statement while the news conference was being televised through her employer, the public-relations shop DKC.

“I am committed to addressing this both legally and personally,” she said. “I am deeply sorry and apologize to my colleagues and friends.”

Allison Lee Police Report

Here is Hinchey’s complete press conference:

Hinchey Not Running In 2012 (Updated)

Politico.com is reporting that Rep. Maurice Hinchey will not run for re-election, which has been widely expected by insiders.

Hinchey underwent treatment for colon cancer last year, raising the speculation that he might not run, and allow his heavily gerrymandered 22nd Congressional to be divided up between several incumbents.

And in December, Hichey’s wife plead guilty to a DWAI, adding to the speculation he wouldn’t run.

Since New York is slated to loose 2 seats, Hinchey’s district will most definitely be split apart. This should be good news for Western New York Congresswoman Kathy Hochul. Democrats can make the case that her district should remain mostly whole because they have given up Hinchey’s seat. It’s also still widely expected that Republicans will sacrifice newly elected Congressman Bob Turner in a redistricting deal with Democrats, allowing them to protect many upstate members, and also the Staten Island district that is represented by Freshman Michael Grimm.

Update: Hinchey’s office just put a press release saying that the Congressman will officially announce that he is retiring at the end of his term tomorrow at 1pm at the Senate House State Historic Site in Kingston.

Hinchey Opponent Revives Land Deal Controversy

Rep. Maurice Hinchey probably doesn’t want voters to recall his testy confrontation with a Kingston Daily Freeman correspondent questioning the veteran Democrat’s financial ties to a local economic development project.

And Hinchey probably doesn’t want to get swallowed up in the so-called “honest graft” issue of Congressional insider trading.

But his Republican opponent George Phillips is doing just that, blasting out a link to a Business Insider story that includes Hinchey’s ties to a project that has benefited from federal aid. In an email fundraising appeal, Phillips writes:

Maurice Hinchey’s profiteering off his position in Washington is highlighted in the recent article below in Business Insider. His net worth increased a whopping 800% in just a few years while so many Americans have struggled to make ends meet. Help us stop this culture of corruption in Washington. We are launcing a two week fundraising push and need your help.

Hinchey has previously insisted his only involvement in the project is as a partial owner of the land where a local economic-development project is being undertaken. He told Liz earlier this year that he said he has “no financial interest” in the project (he also claimed he didn’t tell the reporter to “shut up,” which was not the case).

The issue of insider trading by federal elected officials has received a new look after a 60 Minutes piece profiled the efforts of The book, written by Hoover Institute fellow and sometime GOP speechwirter Peter Schweizer. I’m yet to read the book, so it’s unclear to me if Schweizer has relied on the reporting of Daily Freeman scribe William Kemble (who was on the receiving end of the Hinchey barrage) or if the ties were independently confirmed.

Hinchey Opponent Unveils ‘Extreme’ Ad

Republican George Phillips today is out of the gate with his first web ad aimed at U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey’s record on supporting the public option in the health care law, spending and sanctions on Iran.

“Maurice Hinchey is too liberal for New York and too extreme for America,” the narrator says.

The ad also takes Hinchey task for backing the “Fairness Doctrine” which the ad claims limits free speech, but was originally introduced to require broadcast outfits to present both sides of a controversial issue. The Fairness Doctrine has been out of use since 1987.

The ad can be viewed here. I would have embedded the spot, but it plays automatically when entering the web page whether you want it to or not (something that may annoy readers).

Phillips is a teacher at Seton Catholic Central and Broome Community College.

Update: The great Colin Campbell comes through with YouTube embed:

Engel Makes Two GOP Challengers (Officially) For Hinchey (Updated)

Former assistant US attorney, NYC lawyer and part-time Ulster County resident Tom Engel has decided to take the plunge and convert his exploratory committee for a potential challenge to Democratic Rep. Maurice Hinchey into a full-fledged campaign in NY-22.

“I am writing you to tell you that I have filed the necessary paperwork with the Federal Election Commission and will challenge longtime incumbent Congressman Maurice Hinchey,” Engel informed the district’s approximately 23,000 enrolled Republicans and conservatives in an email blast hitting today.

“I am entering the race because Maurice Hinchey, who will be seeking his 10th term in Congress next year, has proven over the course of four decades in politics, that he is radically wrong for New York and for America.”

(The full text of Engel’s email and the release announcing he has filed the necessary paperwork with the FEC to become a congressional candidate appear after the jump).

NOTE: Engel’s advisor, Rob Ryan, a long-time GOP consultant and former Pataki administration official, informs me his candidate spends the “vast majority” of his time in Ulster County, where he has owned a home for more than two decades, and is therefore, by his definition, not a part-time resident.

Hinchey survived a tough challenge from George Phillips last fall, winning 52-48 despite considerable outside spending on the race by groups like Karl Rove’s American Crossroads.

Phillips, a Binghamton-area teacher who was making a second attempt at unseating the veteran Democratic congressman, was also endorsed by former NYC Mayor Ed Koch, who said Hinchey had failed to sufficiently support Israel. (This was long before Koch’s party line-crossing success in the NY-9 special election with Rep. Bob Turner).

Phillips has since said he intends to make a third run against Hinchey in 2012.

The congressman has been considered a potential candidate for retirement since his colon cancer surgery this summer. Hinchey, 72, has not formally announced a campaign for what would be his 11th two-year term.

Since Turner’s surprise win in Democrat-dominated NY-9 last month, the GOP has started talking about protecting him in the next round of redistricting. Before Turner’s victory, the district had been widely viewed as the top candidate for eradication as Democrats and Republicans face the need to axe two House seats.

Now Hinchey’s district is reportedly among those being eyed for elimination, along with NY-25, currently occupied by another GOP freshman, Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle.

The Democrat Buerkle ousted in a close election last fall, ex-Rep. Dan Maffei, recently announced his intention to mount a re-match in 2012.

UPDATE: Phillips sent out a statement on the 2012 race that reaffirmed his intention to run.

He not directly comment on Engel’s candidacy, other than to 1) refer to Engel as a “NYC attorney,” and 2) note that Engel contributed to Phillips’ campaign ($1,000) last fall. The statement appears after the jump.

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Higgins and Hochul Call For Hezbollah Probe

Democratic U.S. Reps. Brian Higgins and Kathy Hochul issued a joint statement this afternoon calling on the House Homeland Security Committee to investigate Hezbollah’s influence in North America.

The call for the hearing from the western New York Democrats comes as the members say the militant Islamic group’s influence in Toronto, Canada, has increased.

“The issues brought to light during a recent hearing raises serious concerns about potential threats to America including new evidence of infiltration dangerously close to home,” Higgins said in a statement. “We take this information very seriously and are seeking further investigation into this matter including details related to ongoing measures to protect our community and country.”

Hochul, in a statement, said there was a direct concern for western New York residents, given their proximity to the Canadian border.

“The safety and security of Western New Yorkers is my top priority,” said Congresswoman Hochul. “Having a branch of a known terrorist organization in 15 U.S. cities and in Toronto is a cause of major concern; therefore we are requesting a full briefing from our law enforcement community on the nature of the threat and what is being done to counter it.”

Both lawmakers sent a letter U.S. Rep. Pete King of Long Island, the committee chairman, calling for the hearing.

King, as folks will recall, led controversial hearings into the influence of radical Islam in the United States. The hearings were derided by some for persecuting a religious minority.

07-18-11 Hezbollah Letter to CHS Chairs

Rep. Hinchey ‘Resting Comfortably’ After Colon Cancer Surgery

Rep. Maurice Hinchey’s office announced the Hudson Valley Democrat underwent colon cancer surgery today at Albany Medical Center, where he is now “resting comfortably” and is poised to receive follow-up care.


“Following his release from the hospital, Hinchey will spend the next two to three weeks recovering in New York as per his doctor’s orders,” the statement continued.

“All of the congressman’s offices will, as always, remain open, fully staffed, and prepared to help every constituent with any issues, comments, or concerns they may have regarding Congress and the entire federal government.”

No word on the success of the procedure.

In late April, the 72-year-old Hinchey released a statement from his doctor, Randall Rissman, of Woodstock, about his “curable” form of colon cancer. The doctor predicted the congressman would “respond extremely well to the course of treatment we’ve developed for him” and “make a full recovery.”

The Rissman also said at the time that Hinchey would be able to maintain a “full congressional schedule” while undergoing treatment, which started with radiation at Ulster Radiation Oncology Center in Kingston. A brief course of chemotherapy will follow today’s surgery.

Hinchey weathered a tough re-election battle last fall. His campaign was marked by several missteps, most of which stemmed from his dust-up with Kingston Freeman correspondent William J. Kemble.

Republicans and hydrofracking supporters tried to help Hinchey’s Republican opponent, George Phillips, who was making a second attempt at unseating the congressman. Hinchey won, but Phillips didn’t concede until Nov. 19.

Phillips has since indicated he intends to try to unseat Hinchey a third time next fall, and he’s already raising campaign cash. Of course, the lines of NY-22 will be different by then – assuming the district continues to exist.

That’s a safe bet at the moment, considering the NY-9 developments and the target on Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle’s back in NY-25. But things could change considerably between now and then.

GOP Competition In NY-22

Apparently, George Phillips is NOT the only Republican interested in taking on Democratic Rep. Maurice Hinchey.

Not long after I posted Phillips’ email announcing his intention to mount a third House campaign next fall, GOP consultant Rob Ryan called to say he has a client, Thomas Engel, who is also interested in running.

Ryan forwarded a letter that Engel, a private practice attorney, former assistant US Attorney, and longtime ally/appointee of former Gov. George Pataki (hence, the connection to Ryan, a former Pataki aide), sent earlier this month to GOP and Conservative Party leaders announcing his intention to raise/spent $2 million to challenge Hinchey in 2012.

“2012 will be a tougher year for Republicans than 2010; President Obama will be up for re-election, and the Democrats will be out in force registering new voters on the college campuses throughout the congressional district,” Engel wrote.

“If the Republican Party is to defeat Maurice Hinchey, we must have a candidate who can raise over $2,000,000 and wage a no-holds-barred campaign against him. If I enter this race, I will be that candidate.”

Engel contributed to Phillips last year and said he ran a “great race”, but “sadly” came up short. He’s planning on filing paperwork to establish an exploratory committee at the end of the month. (“Exploratory” because of the uncertainty that redistricting adds to the mix, Ryan said).

Engel will seed the committee with “six figures of his own money – partially a loan, partially a donation – then assess as we move forward,” Ryan said, adding: “He has wherewithal to both raise and put in money that will be needed to defeat (Hinchey).”

Obviously, Republicans smell blood in the water after Hinchey’s tough race last year.

Engel-gop Chairs Final

Hinchey Challenger Hopes 3rd Time’s A Charm

George Phillips, a conservative Republican who has twice failed to unseat veteran Democratic Rep. Maurice Hinchey, has decided to make a third attempt at a House seat in 2012.

A reader forwarded me an email Phillips sent to supporters early yesterday morning announcing he has decided to run again next year after “much thought and prayer” with his family. He explained the move thusly:

“Our decision is based on the following:

1) We had one of the closest and most exciting races in the country in 2010

2) We believe our district will be improved in the redistricting process

3) Given our strong performance, we believe we can receive national support much earlier in 2012 if we start now

4) We have received tremendous encouragement to run again from so many supporters as well as local, state and national leaders.

5) We face great challenges as a nation and I believe I can still make a difference serving in the United States Congress.”

Phillips did not specifically say he will challenge Hinchey again. It’s unclear what the already-sprawling 22nd CD will look like come 2012.

There had been some speculation that the 72-year-old Hinchey – who is undergoing treatment for colon cancer and had a tough re-election campaign, although he ended up winning by a comfortable, albeit not huge, margin – would be targeted in redistricting. But that was back before Weinergate.

Hinchey, who was first elected in 1992, fended off Phillips last fall by winning 52 percent of the vote – and that was in spite of the considerable cash spent on the race by outside-the-district GOP outfits like Karl Rove’s American Crossroads.

Hoping to get a jump on fundraising, Phillips said he is launching a “new strategy” for money-gathering. He’s asking supporters to make a small monthly donation to provide a steady stream of cash instead of writing one big check. He’s aiming for a strong showing in the next FEC report, the deadline of which is June 30.

Rep. Hinchey Treated For ‘Curable’ Colon Cancer

Rep. Maurice Hinchey, a veteran Hudson Valley Democrat in NY-22, announced today that he is being treated for what his office called a “curable” form of colon cancer and will maintain a “regular work schedule” while he undergoes care.

The 72-year-old congressman is receiving radiation treatment at Ulster Radiation Oncology Center in Kingston. He will have surgery at Albany Medical Center in June followed by a brief course of chemotherapy.

Hinchey will work and travel to Washington, DC for votes throughout the entire course of treatment, according to a press release from Hinchey’s office.

Dr. Randall Rissman, of Woodstock, is overseeing the congressman’s entire course of treatment. He released the following statement:

“This is a curable form of colon cancer. I expect Mr. Hinchey to respond extremely well to the course of treatment we’ve developed for him and that he’ll make a full recovery.”

“He is very fortunate that this was diagnosed early and that it did not spread beyond the colon. Mr. Hinchey is otherwise in excellent physical condition, which will greatly aid his recovery.”

“Mr. Hinchey will be able to maintain a full congressional schedule while he undergoes treatment. I also fully expect his surgery to be straightforward and have complete confidence that Mr. Hinchey will make a full recovery and be cancer-free.”

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