For two years, Don Hassig has been the one and only Green Party congressional candidate in the North Country, but this election, he is being challenged by a longtime party supporter in the race for New York's 21st Congressional District.
Matt Funiciello, owner of Rockhill Bakehouse Cafe in Glens Falls and Rockhill Bakery in Moreau, plans to jump in and said he expects to get the party endorsement."
"I wanted to run for office for a long time," Funiciello said. "I served on the state (Green) party committee for four years and the national (Green Party) committee for six years.
He was born in Saratoga Springs and currently lives in Glens Falls, in the huge 21st District's southeast corner, where he runs his small business.
Gloria Mattera, co-chair of the New York State Green Party, said it looks likely the two candidates will have a primary election.
"A primary among two Green Party candidates is not usual," Mattera said. "We welcome a primary. We appreciate that the Green Party will have a choice of candidates."
Hassig, of Colton in St. Lawrence County, ran as the Green Party candidate in the race for the 23rd District (now the 21st) seat in 2012.
"I'm so happy there is another Green voice so far in our congressional district," Hassig said. "But I'm just going to say, if the voters compare our records on protecting the Earth, I'm way up there."
Funiciello said there was some disenchantment with Hassig's role in the Green Party after his endorsement of Rep. Bill Owens in 2012.
Hassig said he can understand how that was a letdown for Green Party members.
"I understand that it's a totally legitimate complaint," Hassig said. "I thought about it more. I have to stick with the Green Party, three days before Election Day."
Funiciello said he expects to get the signatures needed to be put on the ballot but said it won't be easy. The amount of signatures is yet to be determined, but the amount will be 5 percent of the total Green Party membership registration in the congressional district.
Funiciello admits his campaign is still in the early stages, saying he has yet to develop a website. Hassig has one at www.donhassigforcongress.wordpress.com.
"Most campaigns by Green Party candidates are signature-collecting operations," Funiciello said. "It's an incredibly undemocratic process."
Funiciello started getting involved in politics and the Green Party in 2000 during Ralph Nader's presidential run as a Green Party candidate. Funiciello said he expects to get Nader's endorsement and maybe do a campaign event or two with him.
"We're talking about doing an event in Glens Falls or Plattsburgh." he said.
Funiciello, who considers himself a progressive, said he plans to stand up for a few key issues during the campaign: a single-payer public health care system, government-funded make-work programs and enviromental issues being his top priority. He hopes to promote alternative energy like wind, solar and biodiesel.
Funiciello was critical of Democrats and our current health care system, saying Democrats have done an "incredibly cruel" thing not implementing a single-payer health care system. He added that Americans need to admit our system is already socialized and move on.
"I'm not really sure why Americans are so resistant," he said.
Funiciello wanted to run for Congress instead of a more local position like mayor because he said these issues require federal initiative.
Hassig said some of his top campaign issues are to stop hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, to give Americans free organic food paid for by the agricultural corporation Monsanto, and reforming education and health care. He plans to give a speech in Syracuse at the upcoming New York State Council on Food Policy.