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Former Congressman Richard Hanna dies at 69

WRVO Public Media

Richard Hanna, a Republican who represented parts of central New York and the Mohawk Valley in Congress from 2011-2017, died Sunday at the age of 69. 

Hanna passed away "with his loving family by his side after a private and courageous battle with cancer. His life and work will remain an inspiration for generations to come – from the structures he built through Hanna Construction to his charitable works that continue to benefit the lives of many in our community, and the indelible mark he left on the U.S. House of Representatives standing for tolerance, personal freedom, and equal rights for all," said a statement sent to WRVO on behalf of the Hanna family. 

Hanna, a longtime businessman, first ran for Congress in 2008 against Democratic Congressman Michael Arcuri for the then-24th Congressional District seat. Acruri won the race. Hanna challenged him again in 2010, and won. Hanna won re-election to the current 22nd District in 2012 and 2014. 

He often voted against his own party on a number of issues. He supported same-sex marriage, and was the only Republican in Congress to vote against a bill in 2013 that would ban abortions after 20 weeks. 

In 2015,he announced he wouldn't run for re-election, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family. When he announced his retirement, he said gerrymandering was responsible for the deep partisan dive in politics. 

"The way the district lines are drawn, there’s a huge incentive to move further to the right or further to the left, and once they do that, it’s hard for them to move back, even though you hear people say, I hate this vote,” he said. 

He said drawing congressional district lines to create races that were more fair would drive candidates more to the center. 

In 2016, not only did he not support Claudia Tenney, the Republican candidate running to replace him in Congress, he also voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.  

But despite his differences on some issues with the GOP, Hanna said it's okay to agree to disagree.

"If there’s something I’ve learned about this business that I’ve known my whole life, but particularly found in the past five years. It's that people don’t mind disagreeing with you. What they want to know is that you’re not a hypocrite,” he said.

Hanna leaves behind a wife, Kim, and two children, Emerson and Grace.

Statement from Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-Utica):

I am shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the loss of Richard Hanna, a personal friend and professional mentor. The Congressman was a giant of upstate New York, a public servant who ‘talked the talk’ and ‘walked the walk’ in his bipartisan service to this community. He put people before politics, our hometown above all else, and he led with true heart. Our community is better for his service and he will be dearly missed. Erica and I send our deepest condolences to Richard’s wife, Kim, their children, and the entire Hanna family during this difficult time.

Statement from Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus):

I am deeply saddened by the passing of my friend and former colleague, Congressman Richard Hanna. A strong and independent voice for Upstate New York, Richard was always willing to work with both parties to deliver results for our region. He was a true leader who was never afraid to stand up for his values and for what he believed in. When I was first elected to represent Central New York in Congress, I looked to Congressman Hanna for guidance, and he became an impactful mentor. Together, we were able to fight through gridlock and pursue policies to make Central New York a better place to live. He will be dearly missed. My wife, Robin, and I send our love to Kim, their children, loved ones, and everyone throughout Upstate New York who knew, respected, and admired Congressman Hanna.

Statement from Former Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-New Hartford):

I am saddened to hear of Richard’s passing. Richard was a successful businessman and true public servant who endeavored to always give back to our community. My prayers are with Kim and the entire Hanna family tonight.

Statement from Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY)

Congressman Hanna represented the people of his district with great integrity. He worked across the aisle to get things done, and he really cared. We collaborated time and again on projects big and small. His focus was always on the people, never the politics. We need more of that in Congress. My heartfelt condolences go out to the community, his friends and entire family.

Jason has served as WRVO's news director in some capacity since August 2017. As news director, Jason produces hourly newscasts, and helps direct local news coverage and special programming. Before that, Jason hosted Morning Edition on WRVO from 2009-2019. Jason came to WRVO in January of 2008 as a producer/reporter. Before that, he spent two years as an anchor/reporter at WSYR Radio in Syracuse.