What’s in a name?

One of my favorite political comedies, 1992’s “The Distinguished Gentleman,” was but a minor hit, grossing just $45 million at the domestic box office. Aimed at a presidential year audience, the movie featured Eddie Murphy as a ne’er-do-well carwash attendant with exactly the same name as lecherous, corrupt congressman Jim Garner.

Garner comes to a sudden end while doing his secretary at the office three weeks before the election. Party bosses scramble to come up with a viable replacement. One of Garner’s aids recalls meeting a guy at the local carwash with the same name as the recently departed. They quickly draft a reluctant Murphy and the winning slogan, “A name you know.” Laughs follow as bumpkin Rep. Murphy discovers how congress really operates, at least in the eyes of screenwriters.

Assemblyman Maurice Hinchey, running for the first of ten terms in the House that year, hated that movie. Hated it. I rented it.

Flash forward to another liberal Democrat with a name you know running for state senate from Ulster County to succeed retiring Republican George Amedore.  Michelle Hinchey, 32, the late congressman’s daughter, might have wanted to follow in dad’s footsteps, but that seat was already taken by Antonio Delgado of Rhinebeck. And he’s not going anywhere soon, unless Joe Biden wins and offers a juicy appointment.

Meanwhile, her Republican opponent, generally known as “the Republican opponent,” since nobody’s seen him for months, may also be attempting to cash in on a familiar name. Retired state trooper Rich Amedure, 55 of Rensselaerville, carries almost the same name as the soon to be forgotten incumbent. Credit Republican operatives for coming this close to a family name. They could have hand-picked Joe Doaks.

Since Amedure hasn’t said much of anything about anything, I can’t accuse him of attempting to cash in on a familiar name.

Hinchey? Wellll…In her initial mailing last week, Hinchey used her father’s name or the words “father” and “dad” five times in a four-page glossy. In addition to a series of who-can-argue feel-good focus group buzz issues, there are also photos of Michelle as a toddler with her parents, playing with Maurice as a teenager and hugging him at his retirement announcement at the Senate House in Kingston in 2012.

A bit much? I thought so.

The irony is that this charming, attractive, articulate young progressive – albeit with light resumé – could probably compete if her name were Joe Doaks.

I find this her race to lose, but question a strategy apparently influenced by aging Hinchey loyalists. Tugging too hard on the admirable and still revered Hinchey coattails might make voters wonder if maybe there isn’t all that there.

Fortunately, her second mailing is all Michelle – no Maurice – which depicts something of a centrist progressive with a sense of the bottom line.

Amedure, as noted, has yet to be heard from.

DEAL OR NO DEAL? – Democratic county legislators are crowing they got some concessions from the county executive in exchange for voting in a four-year extension of the county sales tax. Balderdash. They got squat. “A seat at the table,” said Legislator Brian Cahill. But no vote on agreements that by law are exclusively negotiated between the county exec and Kingston’s mayor.

Word was that executive Pat Ryan advised the legislature in no uncertain terms to either vote for a renewal of the contract “as is” or face a reduction in what is already a miserly three percent of gross receipts for towns from the county. Quietly, the legislature folded.

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