**Updated 10/20/10 9:30 PM est.
Congressman Maurice Hinchey, New York Democrat, faced his Republican challenger George Phillips again in Broome County at the Binghamton Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday. Both men were joined ,at a candidates’ forum, by New York Democratic Congressman Mike Arcuri and his GOP challenger Richard Hanna.
Congressman Hinchey had difficulty explaining his positions on economic policy the last time he debated Mr. Philips. The New York Congressman floundered about on answering a simple question about what his deficit reduction priorities were and seemed doubly confused when asked about where he stood on the return of the impending federal estate tax.
His Republican challenger George Phillips, a former congressional staffer for Rep. Chris Smith, New Jersey Republican, told me on Tuesday, after the debate, he was able to show Mr. Hinchey is “out of touch.”
“It was last week, it’s on our website, he [Hinchey] didn’t realize we had a budget deficit. Today, he was talking about how good things were going in New York State,” said Mr. Phillips. “Manufacturing jobs are down fifty percent since he’s been in office. Small businesses are hurting here. Again, I think we see a case of a Washington politician. He’s way out of touch of what’s going on here.” LISTEN HERE
Mr. Hinchey also seemed noticeably uninformed about the estate tax issue. When asked about it at his first debate with Mr. Phillips, Mr. Hinchey appeared to evade answering the question out of lack of information.
Figuring Mr. Hinchey would at least have been briefed at this point with some kind of answer about the estate tax that is due to return in January of 2011, I asked him if he was concerned about his constituents who are eyeing the return of the estate tax with fear. Unfortunately, The congressman still gave no solid answer on this issue, and essentially gave a response that could be applied to any piece of legislation.
“I think this is something we have to deal with. We have to deal with it effectively and intelligently and I think we have to deal with it as soon as possible and it needs to be gotten done before this year. This is some of the work that has got to be done in terms of work in November and December.” LISTEN HERE
While the candidates sparred at a local Chamber of Commerce in Binghamton, the issue regarding President Barack Obama’s unfounded accusations that the U.S. Chamber has accepted foreign donations was not discussed. I asked Congressman Hinchey if he thought the president went too far with his remarks about the chamber.
“I don’t know, frankly. I don’t know whether he went too far or not, because I’m not precisely sure of what he said,” said the Congressman. “But the fact of the matter is, that the previous government has taken a lot of foreign investments. We get huge amounts of loans from China and other places. Its just incredible what has happened during the Bush administration.” LISTEN HERE
The race between Hinchey and Phillips is an interesting one. Congressman Hinchey has held the office since 1992, and while Mr. Philips first challenged Mr. Hinchey in 2008, the Congressman has never faced a serious challenge until this election season.
President Clinton has come up to the district to stump for Congressman Hinchey, and once again, seeing more high profile Democrats in supposedly safe Democratic seats only lends to the fact that New York’s 22nd district may not be as safe for a Democrat incumbent to remain in as some might think.
Mr. Phillips has also gained steam in the Republican Party. Former New York Governor, Republican George Pataki, will endorse the GOP candidate for the 22nd Congressional District on Thursday. Former New York CIty Mayor Ed Koch, a Democrat, crossed party lines and also endorsed Mr. Phillips as well.
Mr. Hinchey attributes the tough race to “false statements” from the other side and still believes Democrats will maintain their majorities. He also believes the public was manipulated by tea party movement leaders.
“I don’t think we’re going to lose the majority. I think that most of the people in this country are wising up. They’re getting smarter, more insightful. They’re paying more attention to the circumstances. They are beginning to realize, how in the context of this tea party operation, this was set up by a former Republican leader of the House of Representatives. And how that was set up for a manipulation process to provide false information that flowed out there into this country for months, and unfortunately, a lot of people who were very busy and didn’t have the opportunity to look into it deeply were buying into it, but now more of them are being more insightful.” LISTEN HERE
However, Mr. Phillips is tremendously confident about his chances of sending the congressman into un-planned retirement this year.
“This race will send shockwaves across the nation. No one was looking at this race a month ago. My opponent was mocking me, when he announced, ‘Oh I remember that guy.’ He wasn’t taking us seriously. We’ve surged up here,” explained Mr. Philips. LISTEN HERE
“Our internal polls look good. We’re looking really strong here in our home area. We’re spending a lot of time in the Hudson Valley, his home area. That’s where we have to finish off this race and this victory here, but word is getting around. It’s just a matter of whether or not we can reach enough people between now and election day. I think we’re going to be victorious.”