Until four years ago, New York's 19th House District in the lower Hudson Valley was considered Republican territory. But in 2006, former Orleans guitarist John Hall used a grassroots coalition of environmental and peace groups to beat six-term Republican Sue Kelly. Two years later, he got more votes in the district than President Obama.
Now he faces a well-funded challenger in Dr. Nan Hayworth, a pro-choice opthampologist. Hayworth beat off a spirited primary challenge from a pro-life candidate and pumped a half million dollars into her campaign. Both Hall and Hayworth appear to have about the same amount of money on hand to duke it out before the general election.
Before he was elected to Congress, Rep. Hall founded the anti-nuclear group Musicians United For Safe Energy and opposed the war in Iraq. In Washington, he became a leading advocate for veterans and an attentive provider of constituent services. The House Democratic leadership gave the rookie Hall the chairmanship of the House subcommittee that handles veterans disability issues. His work to expedite the byzantine disability claim process for veterans has won him the backing of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Political Action Campaign.
The telegenic Hayworth is running as a deficit hawk and vows to freeze all stimulus spending. Tea Party voters will like her pledge to only approve appropriations related to the federal government's basic constitutional responsibilities. She is also looking to cast November's contest as a referendum on President Obama's and Democratic efforts to reform the nation's health care system. She argues that the legislative overhaul actually threatens to undermine "the world's best" health care system.
Meanwhile, Hall has to both make his case for re-election and educate constituents about new health insurance policies that don't take effect for years, like the end to denying coverage for adults because of pre-existing conditions that comes in 2014.