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Maurice Hinchey, the progressive Democrat from NY’s 22 Congressional district is acting as if the campaign pressure is getting to him. This Thursday night, he debated opponent George Phillips,before the debate had a nasty verbal duel with William Kemble correspondent for local newspaper The Daily Freeman, which led to a physical altercation.

Overall Hinchey has had a pretty lousy week. It started when respected political prognosticator Charlie Cook recognized the gains George Phillips has been making by re-categorizing the race from safe Democratic, to likely Democratic.

That was followed by former Democratic NYC Mayor Ed Koch endorsing George Phillips. Koch still has strong support amongst Democrats in NY State, especially with Jewish voters (who have favored Hinchey). Koch’s endorsement was clearly directed at Hinchey’s Jewish support.

Mayor Koch outlined his reasons for his endorsement, which included the voting record of Rep. Maurice Hinchey and the fact that the Mayor has lost all belief in the promises of Rep. Hinchey. According to Mayor Koch, Rep. Hinchey is “not a friend of Jews”, is bad for national security, and more than willing to support partisan politics to help gerrymander the districts of New York to resist any challenger.

The Kimble/Hinchey altercation occurred during a pre-debate press conference, when Kimble asked the incumbent to explain the connection between Hinchey’s earmarks and a piece of land he owns. As reported here, the progressive Democrat earmarked $800,000 of tax dollars for a sewer infrastructure project that will help the Partition Street Project. Hinchey’s property adjacent to the project, benefits from both the construction of the sewers and the construction of the Partition Street Project. Another $100,000 of the Progressives earmarked tax dollars went to the Bardavon 1869 Opera House a project that one of Hinchey’s Partition Street partners is involved with.

Despite the fact that this is a perfectly legitimate line of questioning, it is obvious that Kimble got under Hinchey’s skin and after the reporter stayed on the case, pushing the congressmen to answer the question, the Democrat simply told the reporter to “shut up,”(not exactly the best way to respond to a journalist).

After the presser, things got physical. Capital Report Tonight, a site covering NY State political news reported:

After the shooters turned off their cameras and started to break down, Hinchey made a beeline for Kemble and got in his face, according to a YNN videographer who was on the scene. The congressman poked Kemble in the chest aggressively, according to the YNN staffer.

I spoke with Kemble briefly this afternoon, and he told me Hinchey “put his hand on my throat” and then “realized what he had done and walked away.” The YNN shooter told me he did not witness this part of the altercation.

The Hinchey campaign responded by blaming it all on the reporter:

“Following the taped interview, Mr. Kemble continued badgering Mr. Hinchey and took an aggressive step toward him in an attempt to provoke a further argument. Nevertheless, the congressman regrets he didn’t walk away from Mr. Kemble sooner in order to end the heated argument.”

Tony Adamis, Kemble’s Managing Editor at the Kingston Freeman objected to Hinchey’s response and sent a  statement to Ed Morrissey at Hot Air some of which is reproduced below:

I am the managing editor of the Daily Freeman, Kingston, NY, for which the reporter, William Kemble, works. The following is a statement I have prepared in response to the misrepresentations of this incident by Congressman Hinchey’s office:

There was an incident. Mr. Kemble says the congressman put a hand on his neck. A third party who witnessed the incident says he did not see that, but did see the congressman jabbing Mr. Kemble in the chest with his finger. Yet another witness says Kemble was pushed into the path of another person by the congressman.

For his part, Mr. Kemble views the incident as an unwanted distraction to his work.

However, as managing editor, I take seriously the issue of anyone, including a congressman, putting their hand on or jabbing with a finger a reporter who is simply doing his job.

Further, the Hinchey camp’s characterizations of the incident as either prompted by aggressive action by Mr. Kemble or by false accusations they claim he and the Freeman have made are untrue.

First, the videotape of the questioning of Mr. Hinchey clearly shows that while Kemble was persistent, he was professional and even in tone, while it was Hinchey who lost his composure. The congressman should own up to what everyone can see.

Second, the specific question that Mr. Kemble was asking prior to the incident and which apparently provoked the congressman involves Hinchey’s real estate interest in a commercial Saugerties development which was referenced in a congressional disclosure form for funding of a Hudson River ferry project. To our knowledge, Congressman Hinchey has never answered questions about that connection, which is why Mr. Kemble was posing the question to him.

We stand by our reporting on federal funding to an area Mr. Hinchey represents . We have made no false allegations nor has Mr. Hinchey proven once, never mind “numerous times,” that any of our reporting was false.

Following his act of aggression, Hinchey debated challenger George Phillips, a debate that Phillips won handily as highlighted by the progressive Democrat giving possibly the worst answer in the history of American Politics to the question of how to correct the federal deficit.

Two weeks prior to the election, GOP Candidate George Phillips seems to be scoring some real momentum building news. What is becoming clear is the good news for his opponent may be causing incumbent Maurice Hinchey to get a bit frayed around the edges leading to a physical confrontation with a reporter.

Not that it is all bad news for the incumbent, he still as the lead in the race, and he still has has the local news firmly in his pocket. (check some of the accounts here) The press reported the altercation most gave Hinchey’s side of the altercation without repeating Kemble’s as described above.  The media repeated Hinchey’s denial of the allegations that pushed him over the edge, but not one tried to investigate the seemingly corrupt use of public funds earmarked by the congressman. While that is good news for Hinchey, it is bad news for the voters of NY-22 who trust the news media to find the truth behind each news story they report.

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