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Rep. Maurice Hinchey to Retire

Updated: 4:26 p.m.

New York Rep. Maurice Hinchey, who has battled colon cancer, will retire at the end of the 112th Congress.

The Democrat’s office said he will make the announcement Thursday in Kingston, N.Y. Hinchey’s move will add further confusion to an already opaque redistricting process in the Empire State.

Before Hinchey’s decision was made public, one influential New York Democrat told Roll Call that “we’re in utter chaos here” with redistricting. Hinchey’s decision to vacate the 22nd district after 10 terms in Congress will temporarily add confusion and unpredictability to the decennial redraw, but it might spell the beginning of the end of the process.

New York lost two seats in reapportionment, leaving the Legislature with tough decisions about which Members to draw out of their districts. The conventional wisdom in the state remains that the split-control Legislature will eliminate one Democratic district and one Republican district. Plugged-in Democrats believe the Democratic district that will be dismantled may now be the 22nd.

“Some would say game over,” another New York Democrat said. “Because [Democratic New York Assembly Speaker] Shelly [Silver] doesn’t have to make a hard decision on the Democrats — and then it’s Turner for Republicans,” the source said, referring to Rep. Bob Turner (R), whose 9th district may be the GOP seat that is dismantled in the redraw.

“Look, for the Democratic Members of Congress in New York, it’s sad to see a respected colleague retire,” Democratic political consultant Evan Stavisky said. “But it’s certainly manna from heaven in a redistricting year.”

He added that the process remains a question mark but that Hinchey’s retirement “provides some breathing room” for Democratic Members worried about the redraw.

There are two GOP candidates in the race in the Poughkeepsie-anchored 22nd: teacher and frequent candidate George Phillips, who lost to Hinchey by 6 points in 2010, and attorney Tom Engel.

“I wish him well,” Engel said in an interview. “I believe that my candidacy will continue to represent the best hope for the return of good leadership to the district.”

Asked about the potential for the district to change substantially or be eliminated, Engel said he would focus on his campaign. “I don’t know what the districts are going to look like but right now, we’re in it, and we’re in for keeps.”

One potential Democratic candidate for the seat, should it remain, is Ulster County Executive Mike Hein.

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