Last week, Rep. Kathy Hochul marked her first year in office, and it's been a busy year for the freshman Democrat who won a special election over Republican Jane Corwin.
Genesee County political observers estimate that Hochul has spent more time locally than her predecessors, Tom Reynolds and Chris Lee, combined.
"That's where the people are," Hochul said, explaining why she makes so many public appearances in the district. "That's where I can listen, find out their concerns. My title is U.S. Representative and the best way I can execute my duties is to listen to people.
"Every time I’m out out in the community I learn something new and I find another way I can serve my district," she added.
Upon taking office, Hochul said she found a backlog of constituent issues and immediately hired staff that would focus on constituent issues.
So far, she said, her staff has helped constituents garner $800,000 in benefits owed to them by the federal government for one reason or another but had been held up by red tape.
Listening to constituents, she said, is why she continues to oppose the Ryan budget plan and its cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.
Genesee County, already with a heavy Medicaid burden, would see it increase under the Ryan plan, Hochul said.
"The Ryan budget plan would convert Medicaid into a block grant program, and that's one of the many reasons I'm against it," Hochul said. "It would make for higher costs for county taxpayers and taxpayers across Western New York. It would limit how much counties get and the localities would have to pick up the cost."
But listening to constituents, she said, is also why she was one of only 24 Democrats, and the only one from New York, to support the balanced budget amendment.
Democrats in Washington, she said, haven't put pressure on her to conform with their agenda.
"My title is representative and I represent a Republican, conservative-leaning district," Hochul said. "I am free to look at every issue that comes before me and vote in the best way to represent my district."
In Washington, Hochul said, Republicans have shown a willingness to work with her. On the Homeland Security Committee, she was the only Democrat during the session to get unanimous bipartisan support for her amendments to bills. That included an amendment to ensure Transportation Security Administration uniforms are made in the United States and that unclaimed clothing from airport screenings are donated to homeless veterans.
Representing the people of WNY in Congress is an amazing honor, Hochul said.
"I come back to the district often because what occurs here is very much more meaningful and where the decisions we make effect lives directly," Hochul said.
Top Photo: File photo, Hochul at the parade in Bergen on Memorial Day this year.