Republican candidates for Congress Matt Doheny and Elise Stefanik listen as Green Party Candidate Matt Funiciello speaks at the Hague Candidates Night June 11.
It was apparent early which candidate had nothing to lose.
Almost 100 people were in attendance at the Hague Meet the Candidates June 11, with Republican candidates and June 24 primary rivals Elise Stefanik and Matt Doheny joined by Green Party Candidate Matt Funiciello, who stated early he was going to keep things light.
“I’m just here to have some fun and get my ideas out to the people,” Funiciello said in his opening statement. “For me, this isn’t about politics because the problem is it’s always about politics. We are turning away from self governance and we want to convince ourselves that there is a two-party system which is very unimaginative and also untrue.”
Doheny and Stefanik also had a chance to make a first impression on the crowd.
“I want to make the North Country a better place, it’s very simple,” Doheny said. “I have gone door-to-door during this campaign and what I have heard is people have become depressed and have sort-of given up on Washington.”
“I believe I have seen first-hand how Washington is broken,” Stefanik said. “Working with my parents in a small business, we felt first hand the economic challenges in this part of New York State. We need a new generation of common sense politicians.”
Following the opening statements, candidates were questioned on several different topics. Here are their responses to some of those inquiries:
• What committee assignments would you seek?:
Matt Doheny said he would like to be on committees that dealt with small business, financial services, armed services and veterans, citing Fort Drum as, “the largest employer in the district.”
Matt Funiciello joked, “I can tell you all kinds of committees I would like to be on, but being a Green Party member they would probably lock my door and keep me out of the big rooms.” He went on to say that he would most like to serve on agricultural committees.
Elise Stefanik said she would like to seek committees that reflected the issues in the district, naming agriculture, armed services and budget, saying, “the biggest issue my generation is going to face is the debt that we have racked up.”
• What are your plans to promote economic development?:
Matt Funiciello: “We need to stop the people who are taking corporate welfare. We need to look at economic development and a green jobs program.”
Elise Stefanik: “We need to invest in our infrastructure because our roads need help.” She also addressed broadband and cell coverage, promoting tourism, fighting against invasive species, opportunities to bring manufacturing jobs to the Adirondacks, lowering tax rates, expanding biomass and enhancing partnerships with Canadian businesses.
Matt Doheny: “We need to have the park covered for cell phones. If you don’t have that, people are not going to come. There needs to be a public/private partnership with broadband.” He also brought up improving area infrastructure.
• Will we ever see you in Hague again?:
Elise Stefanik: “The model of having congressional offices is not good enough. I will have a mobile district office and will utilize social media for each vote I take in Congress. I will also list my schedule publicly online.”
Matt Doheny: “It comes down to customer service. You should not have to drive two hours to see your representative. We need to have more offices and more people on the ground. Once every two years, we are going to have a town hall meeting in every town in the district.”
Matt Funiciello: “I would love to come and visit Hague again... but do you want me to go to Congress and fight for your issues or do you want me to come to your parades and duck races.”
On other issues, Doheny and Stefanik were in favor of the Keystone Pipeline and fracking while Funiciello was against. On the other end, Funiciello was for the legalization of marijuana, while Stefanik said she was against and Doheny said he would support medical marijuana if tightly regulated.
All three addressed the need for change for veterans health care.
“We need to make sure this never happens again and the people who work in government are held accountable,” Doheny said. “Now, everything is fixed to a clinic and hospital systems and we need to allow for more flexibility.”
“We have an amazing health care problem in this country and it’s why we have a problem in the VA,” Funiciello said. “We have a horrible health care system in America. What if every soldier was just an American citizen and was able to get coverage at any hospital and by any doctor because he or she had already paid for it.”
“This problem goes into the roots of the bureaucracy,” Stefanik said. “We need to allow all vets to have access to private hospitals. There should be no bonuses given to our VA workers. We need to make sure that we provide the support needed for military and veteran families.”