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Ms. Hochul, congratulations on your victory. Thanks very much for joining us.
REP.-ELECT KATHY HOCHUL (D), NEW YORK: Thank you very much. My pleasure, Rachel.
MADDOW: Your district has, historically, been much more comfortable electing Republican candidates than electing Democratic candidates. Why in this year, in this election, do you think your district was willing to break that pattern and pick you instead?
HOCHUL: I think the people in this district knew the issues were on our side. I came out very strong early on and my opposition to the Ryan budget plan. And it gave me an opportunity to show that there was a clear difference between the candidates in this race.
So, when people understood the issues and they seemed to put aside the fact that I was a Democrat. So, I had a lot of crossover appeal, I would have won this election. So, we have Republicans, independents and Democrats come my way because of the issues we raised, particularly with Medicare. That was huge in this district with an elderly population. And, you know, a lot of people didn"t like the priorities that are found in that budget.
So, I feel really good about that we had a chance to give the voters for once a very clear choice in candidates.
MADDOW: The reason there has been so much national focus on your election in part, I think, because everybody"s jonesing for an election and there was an election and yours was the big one happening in terms of a federal race. But also because of that point that you"re raising right here, that idea that the Democrats are right on the issues, particularly on this Medicare issue and that"s what made this election have what would otherwise be such an unexpected result.
I"m sure that you feel cautious about extrapolating from your one experience to the whole country. But do you think that Democrats nationally should be making clear that point that you made so clear about the different options being offered by the two different parties on the issue of Medicare specifically.
HOCHUL: I"m not going to be able to pretend to extrapolate for the rest of the country. It seems like there"s a lot of people willing to do, which is fine. All I can speak to is that in a Republican district, people are willing to listen to my message that the priorities are very different from the Democrats and Republicans and what"s going on in Washington. And it"s not just Medicare, which is very important, and the fact that people did not want to decimate the program and really make it unrecognizable from what the program is we have now that people have come to rely on their lives.
So, setting that aside, they knew that I"m also an independent Democrat, someone who understands we do need to get our deficit under control. And I"ve said that all along. But the difference between myself and my opponent was really clear when it came to how we do that. I"m willing to have everything on the table--entitlement reform, defense spending, as well as revenues.
And I think the lesson to take away from this as well is that people in this district, when you spoke about the inequity of clearly in the tax code where my folks on main street and all the small towns you listen and many more and I met many of them, think that it"s unsafe that the small businesses are paying more in taxes than many people who have large corporations to ship our jobs overseas. They also don"t think it"s fair that people who make millions and billions in that country aren"t paying their fair share when times are tough. So, that"s the lesson. That"s the take away from this race, in my judgment.
It"s Medicare, but also the willingness for people to accept someone who has said, you know what, times are tough. We"ve got to get our deficit under control. And there"s a few ways to do it. Control spending, but there is a revenue side that needs to be on the table as well.
MADDOW: So, just to be clear, you think in term of Democrats looking for a way to speak most effectively to middle of the road voters, potential crossover voters, working class people, middle class people, that there is an effective message out there, political message out there in terms of taxes. That"s very much outside the Beltway common wisdom whenever you say taxes, that"s an immediate turn off and that"s a no go area for voters.
HOCHUL: Nobody wants to raise taxes. And I can tell you, I have a different threshold than what I"m hearing from some Democrats in Washington. I"ve straightened out that I don"t think the tax cuts should continue for people making over $500,000, that"s half a million dollars. That"s a lot of money in this district where the average income is about $46,000 to $53,000.
So, people in this area say we understand we have to get our debt under control. And there"s two way to do it. I cannot cut our way out of it exclusively. And they sure don"t like the priority of saying that our seniors should bear the brunt of this.
And I"m talking about future seniors as well. People didn"t like this idea of age warfare that if you"re 56, you"re OK. If you"re 54, you"re not. No one liked that.
And I"ve got parents who are, you know, in their mid-70s now. They don"t want to throw their own kids under the bus.
So, it was--I think they tried to break us apart by generation and that didn"t work as well.
MADDOW: The Paul Ryan Republican budget, including the Medicare provision, your opponent Jane Corwin said, of course, that she would vote for it. Paul Ryan himself has a new video out today trying to defend himself on the Medicare issue. And he has been saying today if his plan did turn off voters from the Republican candidate in your district, he says that"s only because people don"t really understand what he"s offering, that the Republican ideas about Medicare have been misrepresented in order to scare voters.
What"s your response to that?
HOCHUL: I think his plan scared voters before I even was on the scene. You know what? The idea of breaking the promise that we made to our seniors over 45 years ago doesn"t sit well with people. People paid into this program since their high school job. It"s not a charity program.
Now, I understand the need to get the underlying cost driving health care up under control. But that does not mean you touch the beneficiaries. It means you go after the underlying cost of health care. And that"s another whole topic and I have some ideas on that as well, as do thoughtful people in Washington.
But the bottom line is I think there"s room for agreement here. And I"m the type of Democrat who represents a Republican area who can come to Washington and say, listen, I"ve got the support of a lot of individuals who normally don"t vote Democrat. In fact, I can"t tell you how many times people said I was the very Democrat they voted for in their life.
But I bring with me the opportunity to work with both sides of the aisle. Democrats have given on cutting expenses, looking at the continuing resolution this year, $38.5 billion, Democrats agree to, because they understand the need to get spending under control.
Republicans have to meet us halfway. There"s just no way around it. I think what they should take some comfort in is that people in this describing are not afraid to say the wealthiest in this country when times are tough should pay their fair share and go back to taxes the way they were back under the Clinton era when last I checked things were pretty prosperous here.
MADDOW: A lot of people looking at your win last night many the way that you"ve explained the issues in this race leading up to last night and frankly the way you"re explaining them right now. A lot of people are wondering if when you get to Washington, you"re going to have your eyes on potentially taking some sort of national leadership role with the Democrat Party, if you"ve got ambitions about trying to alter the party"s course in any way once you"re here--I wonder if you have any plans like that, you"d like to share with us.
HOCHUL: My ambition is to get sworn-in and start serving the people of this district right away. And I think there are lessons others can take from this race. But my priorities are to get to know more people in this district.
It was a very short election time. So, I need to go more places, work with our veterans, work with our seniors--really take care of my district. I know how to do that well. So, I"m looking forward to that challenge.
MADDOW: Congresswoman-elect Kathy Hochul, Democrat of New York"s 26th district, congratulations again. And thank you so much for your time tonight. I really appreciate it.
HOCHUL: Thank you. Appreciate it.
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