This may prove to be a strong move for Democrats. The next Congressional election coincides with the presidential election—which means that voters will be strongly influenced by which party they vote to the presidency. While Obama’s poll numbers and approval rating are both mixed right now, betting on an Obama win is smart money—presidential incumbency advantage has been so strong that we’ve had a single one-term president since 1980. So if Obama does win, that makes 2014 is 2nd mid-term election—a historically dangerous one for the president’s party (think 2006 for the Republicans).
Thus, by Hinchey retiring, New York politicians won’t have to protect his seat from redistricting. This year, New York will lose 2 seats in the House of Representatives—such loses usually end up endangering newly elected representatives. Thus by not seeking reelection, Hinchey will protect younger incumbent Democratic seats elsewhere in the state from the redistricting process this year, and giving them one more term of incumbency going into what would be likely be a difficult 2014.
Hinchey's current district may look nothing like it does now by the end of next month. Presently the 22nd snakes around the Pennsylvania border to cover cities like Ithaca, Binghamton, Kingston, Poughkeepsie, Middletown, and Newburgh. The district is currently packed, that is, it snakes around to contain all the democratic areas in one district. In fact, the currently blue 22nd is in a sea of red: the 19th to the south, the 20th to the east and north, the 24th to the north and the 29th to the west are all held by the GOP. So, my guess is that the current 22nd will be cracked—so that Ithaca and Binghamton will no longer be connected to Ulster County, Sullivan County, and the surrounding areas. This will be done to protect Democrats elsewhere in the state.
What does this mean for Hinchey’s home Ulster County? My best guess would be that it will get split between the 19th and the 20th. If that happens, it may be a long time until another Ulster County Democrat gets to Washington.