Bipartisan praise for Hinchey as a fighter and environmental champion

Sen. Charles Schumer and former Rep. Maurice Hinchey both made their political debuts in 1974, elected to the New York Assembly in a Democratic wave that flipped the Republican-controlled chamber in the midst of the Watergate scandal and a backlash against President Nixon’s party.

Of all the elected officials praising Hinchey after his death on Wednesday, few had as long a history with the 79-year-old former congressman as Schumer, whose career overlapped with Hinchey’s in both the Assembly and the House of Representatives.

“‘Mighty Moe,’ as I used to call him, was a man of great conviction, principle, endless energy and rare legislative ability,” Schumer said in a statement. “He cut a unique figure throughout the Hudson Valley and the Southern Tier, and was passionately committed to the environment and to preserving that region’s priceless open and wild spaces.”

Schumer happened to be meeting with the Times Herald-Record editorial board in January 2012 when Hinchey announced his retirement. He recalled then working with Hinchey on a number of reforms when they joined the Assembly in the “Watergate class” of Democratic freshmen. “He figures out what he believes in, and he fights as hard as he can for it,” Schumer told the Record at the time. “And I think that’s been one of the main reasons for his success, because people know he’s the real deal.”

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, the Cold Spring Democrat who now represents the Orange County areas of Hinchey’s former district, which was carved up in the last round of  redistricting in 2012, was elected to Congress the same year that Hinchey left it. He said in a statement after Hinchey’s death that he has often been counseled to “do exactly what Maurice Hinchey would do” since taking office.

“Easier said than done,” Maloney said. “Maurice was a living legend — principled, tough, passionate, and effective. I have modeled my own service on his, and I am proud to have called him a mentor and a friend. Now more than ever, our nation misses and longs for leaders like Maurice.”

Rep. John Faso, a Republican who also served in the Assembly with Hinchey, and who now represents Ulster and Sullivan counties and other pieces of Hinchey’s former congressional district, praised his former colleague from across the aisle for his “distinguished and notable career.” He called Hinchey a “fierce defender of the environment,” who left a mark on New York as chairman of the Assembly’s environmental conservation committee. Faso remembered Hinchey as “an articulate and dedicated proponent of the causes he believed in and the people he served.”

Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus, a Republican who interacted with Hinchey when he was an assistant to the Newburgh city manager in the 1990s, called Hinchey a “true gentleman” and environmental advocate who was “passionate about serving his constituents.”

“We worked on many projects together, and I always enjoyed talking with Congressman Hinchey about his service in the U.S. Navy, which he was very proud of,” Neuhaus said.

Gareth Rhodes, an Ulster County native and one of six Democrats vying to challenge Faso for the 19th Congressional District seat next year, called his former congressman a “model of a true public servant” for him while he was growing up.

“From his unwavering work to protect our environment, to his outspoken opposition to the Iraq War even when that position wasn’t popular, Congressman Hinchey never wavered from his convictions,” Rhodes said. “He had the courage to stand up to U.S. presidents, the selflessness to spend hours talking to one constituent about his or her concerns, and the eloquence to capture why we love our community so much.”

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    Chris McKenna covers Orange County government and politics for the Times Herald-Record. He has been a reporter at the newspaper since 1999. Read Full

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