Green party voters may get primary race in 21st

Feb 21, 2014

It's been just about a week since the Democratic Party announced documentary filmmaker Aaron Woolf as its candidate for the 21st District congressional seat Bill Owens currently holds, but Woolf has yet to make a public appearance or return emails since then. A brief statement last week said an official campaign announcement would be made "in the coming days."

But there has been news among the Green Party in the 21st District. They're heading toward a rare primary as St. Lawrence County anti-cancer activist Donald Hassig and Glens Falls baker and businessman Matt Funicello have both said they're running as Green Party candidates.

Hassig, who is known for dancing, chanting and howling while on the campaign trail, was actually whistling with excitement at the notion of a Green Party primary.

"It's good for America and it's good for politics," Hassig said.

Hassig has run for Congress several times, and for governor and U.S. Senator. But he's never run against another Green candidate. He says a primary will generate more media attention for environmental issues.

"We now have from mid-February all the way to September, a huge amount of time, for two people to be bringing forward Green issues," Hassig explained.

Last weekend, that second candidate came forward. Matt Funicello has owned Rockhill Bakehouse in South Glens Falls for more than a decade. He opened a café in downtown Glens Falls more recently. He says proudly he gets up every morning at three to bake. And he says he's running to represent working people.

"We're the ones who have alarm clocks," Funicello said. "We're the ones who get up every morning and go to work. I believe that it's really important on an almost libertarian level or constitutional level that we return to the idea of the gentleman farmer or the country lawyer or doctor heading to DC, to speak the voice of the people that live in their district," Funicello said.

Funicello has worked for several Green Party campaigns, including Ralph Nader's presidential bids and Howie Hawkins' run for governor. He says finding jobs for the small towns of the Adirondacks is a priority, as is supporting small farmers and farmers markets. Funicello sells his bread at those markets and buys one quarter of his flour from farmers in Jefferson County.

"People are starting to get that you can buy local regional foods and organic foods in a supermarket," he said. "But you're really supporting the producer so much more directly and boldly when you go to a farmers market."

St. Lawrence County's Don Hassig says he'll continue to work on his signature issue in the campaign: reducing public exposure to cancer-causing chemicals. But he says he also wants to raise the minimum wage and provide free universal health care.

"Canada has this, Japan has this, Germany has this," Hassig said. "We need free health care here for all, free Medicaid, right here in America for all Americans."

New York's Green Party co-chair Gloria Mattera says as long as they file their petitions on time, both men will be considered Green candidates for the North Country congressional race. She says a primary doesn't happen that often in Green politics in New York. But she's says it's "a good thing for the party."

Republicans Elise Stefanik, Joseph Gilbert, and Jamie Waller have also announced they'll run for Bill Owens seat. Owens said last month he'll step down to spend more time with his family.