When Kathy Hochul won the special election in New York’s 26th district in May, just about everyone who follows politics could tell you her stance on Paul Ryan’s budget: she was against it.
But what else does Hochul believe? For one thing—that free trade deals are terrible for American workers. At a press event in her district last week, she vowed to take on her party over the issue:
“For too long, our policies have created incentives to ship our jobs overseas,” [Hochul] said.
“We saw what happened with NAFTA; the promises never materialized,” she said of the North American Free Trade Agreement. “If I have to stand up to my on party on this, I’m willing to do so. Don’t even worry about bringing the delegations around to persuade me; you're wasting your time. I will stand my ground on this one.”
While she’s just one vote in the Republican-dominated House, it’s a notable for someone that enjoyed a serious political spotlight and the support of the entire Democratic Party, including President Obama.
Hochul’s stance does have some local political considerations. Jack Davis, the multimillionaire who has spent considerable amounts of money to run as in independent in the small district in several elections, runs on a near-exclusive anti–free trade platform. Hochul, in a clear effort to appease him, made her announcement at his factory.
But there are also much more urgent local considerations: the region has been absolutely decimated by a decline in manufacturing jobs.
According to the New York State Department of Labor, the loss of manufacturing jobs was the largest source of losses over the past decade in every county in Hochul’s district—and in every district in the state. The 26th district covers the suburbs between Buffalo and Rochester, which both lost almost 43 percent of all manufacturing jobs since 2000.
Hochul’s timing is crucial—Obama’s jobs plan calls for approval of free trade deals with Panama, Colombia and South Korea. The Senate is taking up a bill today that could help move those deals forward. If she continues to take a stand, Hochul could highlight the substantial Congressional opposition to free trade deals—and back up her opposition with tales of woe from her district.