North Country congressional debate gets personal, again
The issue of who is really from the North Country continues to be raised in the race for the 21st Congressional District seat. Last night, the second of three televised debates was held in Plattsburgh, sponsored by WPTZ-TV. This time, the three candidates were all asked where they maintain their primary residence and whether they were eligible to vote in the district two years ago.
Elise Stefanik, the Republican candidate, has spent the last several years living and working in Washington, D.C., but now lives at her family vacation home in Essex County.
“Willsboro, N.Y. is where my residence is. My family’s had a home there since I was three years old. I’m a proud resident. Upstate New York is a part of my upbringing. I was born in St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany County. I was eligible to vote in the 20th Congressional District in the 2012 election,” said Stefanik.
The Democratic candidate, Aaron Woolf, is known as a documentary filmmaker from Brooklyn, but also has a home in the North Country.
“My primary residence is Elizabethtown, N.Y. I did not vote in Elizabethtown in the last election, but I would have been eligible to do so as somebody who pays taxes in this district,” said Woolf.
Green party candidate Matt Funiciello owns a bakery in Glens Falls, N.Y. and lays claim to being the one candidate truly from the district. But he has been outspent by the major party candidates in this campaign, who have received substantial support from their respective national parties and from political action committees.
“When people are trying to buy a congressional seat, that’s what disturbs me -- not necessarily that their ties to the area are tenuous,” said Funiciello.
But issues of substance also were debated – including foreign policy, social security, the federal Highway Trust Fund, and the Affordable Care Act.
But things got personal again, when the topic turned to the minimum wage.
Aaron woolf said Elise sWefanik is on the wrong side of the issue over whether to raise the minimum wage.
“Mitt Romney is in favor of raising the minimum wage. Bill O’Reilly is in favor of raising the minimum wage,” said Woolf. “And it’s surprising that she keeps punting on this question, because we need to give Americans a raise and we need to give consumers a raise.”
But Stefanik argued that actions speak louder than words, noting that her family's business pays its workers higher than the minimum wage, and that Funiciello does as well.
“I’m proud that my family’s business pays $14.50 and up. I commend Matt Funniciello for paying his employees $15 and up. The candidate on this stage who pays less than the minimum wage he is advocating for is Aaron Woolf, who pays $10. So I hope you give your workers a raise.”
Woolf said he is only a part owner in the business Stefanik was referring to, so he does not have full control over setting the employees wages.
Stefanik has been ahead of the other two candidates in recent polls. The 21st Congressional District seat is currently held by Bill Owens, who announced his retirement in January.