Matt Funiciello speaks with a room of Minerva and Olstedville residents regarding the issues important to them in the NY21 congressional race.
Matt Funiciello gives a lesson in mixing color: red plus blue can equal green.
Funiciello, a Glens Falls baker, has long been involved in politics on the local, state and national levels, with the Democratic Party, Working Families Party and most recently, running for New York’s 21st Congressional seat in a mid term election as a Green Party candidate.
“I am running on the Green Party ballot because I have worked with Ralph Nadar for the last 15 years,” Funiciello said. “I agree with his views on Congress.”
Speaking to a room of about 20 in the Route 28 Firehouse in Minerva, Funiciello said he considers himself to be fiscally conservative and socially progressive, adding that both of the debates he has taken part in during his campaign have been Republican primary debates.
“I do well with Republicans,” Funiciello said. “We may not agree on everything but they can see my side of the equation, being a worker, not someone who wants to listen but someone who has been listening.”
Spending nearly all of his life in the 21st District is something Funiciello said gives him an edge over Republican candidate Elise Stefanik, a former Bush staffer, Willsboro resident and manager of her parents’ lumber and flooring business.
“I am a business owner in the district, a business that is in as much debt as it is making money,” Funiciello said. “My parents aren’t worth 50 billion dollars, (Elise) Stefanik wasn’t a kid who went to Harvard on her grades she is a child of privilege who has never had to work.”
Funiciello also discussed his opinion of Aaron Woolf, the Democratic nominee, an independent film maker and deli owner who spends his time between his home in Elizabethtown and his business in Brooklyn.
“I like Aaron Woolf, he’s a nice guy,” said Funiciello. “But I think he might be making a movie, I just don’t think its real.”
In both debates that Funiciello has participated in, as well as the many of the town hall style meet and greets, the fundamental platforms of his campaign remain consistent.
As a small business owner, Funiciello operates his bakery in Queensbury and his cafe in downtown Glens Falls, employing 35 local people, himself included.
“I pay my workers what I make,” Funiciello said. “I don’t live off their backs. Just like they do, I rent my home, my car belongs to the bank and I pay them to use it every month.”
Funiciello explained that in his belief as a state and as a country we need to be empowering workers, using Walmart workers as an example.
“I don’t shop at Walmart, but I am paying for the foodstamps, Medicaid and subsidized housing that workers at Walmart get,” Funiciello said. “Instead why don’t we force Walmart to pay a living wage and it will take that burden off of me and off of many.”
Funiciello also explained that he has gone to many hearings at the statehouse in Albany with the Working Families Party to lobby for a higher minimum wage.
“I said to them, ‘I’m here for you, not with you. You want a $10 minimum wage — I want more,’”Funiciello recakked. “Ten dollars is not a working wage, why not shoot for 15?”
The downsizing of the number of soldiers at Watertown’s Fort Drum has been a topic all candidates in the race have discussed. Funiciello takes a stance but not a clear resolution on how to best handle the situation.
“I am pro-soldier, but we are not the empire anymore,” Funiciello said. “No longer are we in a circumstance where soldiers are being asked to defend America.”
Funiciello explains that in the past, he was able to offer his employees a 50/50 shared health insurance plan. He explained that he sat in a room with them recently and explained that he no longer could offer this, citing the rising costs in health care and the onset of the Affordable Care Act.
“I explained to them that I could decrease my share to 30 or 40 percent,” Funiciello said. “Or we could go without and the worst thing that was going to happen is someone ended up with a bill and like me they don’t own anything, we would have to take care of it from here.”
Funiciello also said President Barrack Obama has done the cruelest thing that anyone could do to Americans.
“The Affordable Care Act is terrible legislation written by insurance companies and the health care lobby,” Funiciello said. “It took something people could already not afford and then forced them to buy it.”
Funiciello cited the House of Representatives bill HR676 which would provide what he calls an improved and expanded Medicare for all, that could be up to 40 cents on the dollar cheaper than what we have now.
GOALS IF ELECTED:
“If elected, I would like to go to D.C. for the first time in history other than Abraham Lincoln, which people tend to forget he was a third party candidate as well,” Funiciello said. “I plan on going in and causing some trouble, stirring some things up. I am not going to Congress to become another ineffectual member.”
Audience members asked the following questions:
Q: Do you have a plan for your business if elected?
A: Currently I am transitioning to hand over the reigns to two people who work for me. Even just for the fall during the last two months of the campaign. Right now, I am putting in between 50 and 60 hours at the bakery and am there four days a week. I won’t be able to do that as the election gets closer.
Q: You haven’t talked about education, what is your stance?
A: I am disgusted by our public schools. We need to be having conversations, intelligent conversations about things that is the answer.
Q: What are you going to be able to do in Congress if no one will affiliate with you?
A: I am going to raise a voice to the theatre of what happens there, for the 80 percent of us with alarm clocks who get up in the morning and go to work.
Q:What do you say to the people that call third party candidates spoilers?
A:These people, (other candidates) are doing immoral things that they know are not in our best interest. They should go, they are the spoilers. You guys (pointing to the room) are not going to get an independent voice from those who took corporate money