By Melanie Lekocevic
Capital Region Independent Media
State Sen. Michelle Hinchey, D-46, will run against another incumbent in the newly formed 41st state Senate District.
“I currently represent the 46th District, which includes part of Ulster County, all of Greene County and then part of Albany, Schenectady and all of Montgomery County,” Hinchey explained. “Every 10 years, with the census, any district that is based on population gets new district lines.”
According to the redistricting commission that redrew the Senate lines this year, Hinchey, who resides in Ulster County, now lives and will run in the 41st Senate District.
Hinchey, who is the daughter of the late U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey, was born and raised in Saugerties, attended Cornell University and graduated during the recession of 2009. She got a job from an internship she held as a student and went into communications for technology and media companies for the next 10 years.
“But at the end of the day, I felt that there was a lot more to do and to give back and to be involved,” she said. “I learned that from both of my parents, but especially from my father, who himself was in elected office. He worked his way up from a tollbooth worker to being in the House of Representatives.”
That spurred her to seek elected office as well, and two years ago she won the Senate seat in the 46th District.
“I wanted to give upstate New York and the Hudson Valley, our more rural communities, a real seat at the table to actually talk about and advocate for the issues that we are facing that have often been left on the table for too long, and to really be a voice in Albany so we can get good stuff done,” Hinchey said. “I’m really proud of the work we’ve done over the last two years on that front.”
As a freshman senator, she “got very busy, very quickly,” she said.
“I am really proud that in my first term, I passed 53 bills through the Legislature,” Hinchey said. “That is the most of any legislator in Albany and 52 of those bills passed with bipartisan support, some of them even unanimously, showing that we are building coalitions. I work across the aisle — me and my team — and we really get stuff done and we are delivering for our communities.”
One of the achievements she has been most proud of during her first term in the Senate was getting state funding for Catskill Park, she said.
“So much of our environmental budget, if it goes towards stewarding land, goes to the Adirondacks,” Hinchey said. “We appreciate the Adirondacks, we love the Adirondacks, but the Catskills are so important.”
Hinchey said she fought to include Catskill Park in the state budget for the first time, under two line items.
As chairwoman of the Senate’s Agriculture Committee, she worked to help local farms, she noted.
“I have been able to deliver the best budget for agriculture two years in a row in the state’s history, really supporting our family farms, and they are the types of farms that are here in New York state, which are small- and medium-sized family farms,” she said.
Additional state funding for road improvements was another goal Hinchey worked towards through the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program, or CHIPs.
“I was able to fight for and secure the biggest funding investment in CHIPs funding and highway road improvement — really important for our communities, really important specifically for Greene County — and we were able to deliver $6.3 million for Greene County alone in highway funding, which is new jobs, keeping people safe, supporting our businesses and so many others,” she said.
According to Hinchey, housing is a major issue that needs to be addressed in the district.
“We were facing a housing crisis prior to the pandemic, but we’ve seen that skyrocket over the last handful of years,” she said. “People don’t think about housing crises in upstate communities, in more rural areas, but we are facing one so I am really proud that I was able to deliver the largest investment in upstate and rural housing the state ever had this past year with $236 million. That is funding to help build more workforce housing and affordable housing, and also helping things like small rental development units, which is housing of 20 units or less, which is what we need in our more rural areas.”
Dealing with short-term rentals, such as the proliferation of Airbnbs, is also key to solving the housing crisis, she said.
“Short-term rentals are a really important part of our economic drivers — it’s how so many of our small towns and communities survived the pandemic. It’s why our restaurants stayed open, our small businesses survived, our Main Streets, and also our sales tax, making sure that everyone’s bottom line stayed as stable as possible,” Hinchey noted. “However, it’s really strangling much of our housing stock and each individual community needs to have the tools and the information to be able to determine for themselves what they need to do to combat their housing issues.”
A bill Hinchey introduced would create the first statewide registry of short-term rentals so municipalities can “make sure they are actually getting the money that they are owed by short-term rentals.”
If re-elected, Hinchey wants to work to make sure rural communities have access to health care, she said. A bill she championed through the Senate created the Rural Ambulance Services Task Force to identify and address the issues faced by rural ambulance squads.
To improve employment opportunities during a period of high inflation, Hinchey said she fought for workforce development funding.
“We secured $115 million for a workforce development grant, which includes a $65 million carve-out to support early job connections for young people taking non-traditional pathways and training, having better tie-ins with BOCES, making sure people know what jobs are out there,” she said.
With areas of the district still lacking broadband access, Hinchey called it “unconscionable” that some New Yorkers still don’t have access to reliable internet service. Part of the problem is that in the past the state has used census data to determine how much of the state is wired for high-speed broadband, she said.
“Census track numbers do not work for rural communities,” she said. “We were able to successfully put in a study for household-level data to actually understand what the real landscape looks like. That study is underway and because of that, we were able to secure a billion dollars in the budget to actually build out internet service.”
Reproductive rights and abortion care are issues under discussion on the national stage, and Hinchey said she is pro-choice.
“I truly believe that the overturning of Roe v. Wade — the Dobbs decision — was a travesty,” she said. “When that decision was leaked, we passed a slate of bills in May to protect people’s rights, especially those that come to our state seeking health care because reproductive care is health care and health care is a human right.”
Watch the full interview with Democratic candidate state Sen. Michelle Hinchey, running for the 41st state Senate District, at www.theupstater.com.
Election Day will be Nov. 8.