A first conversation with NY-21 candidate Aaron Woolf

Aaron Woolf, Democratic Party candidate for the NY-21 House seat. Photo: provided by NYS Democratic Party

Aaron Woolf, Democratic Party candidate for the NY-21 House seat. Photo: provided by NYS Democratic Party

Update: You can hear David Sommerstein’s full interview with Aaron Woolf, and read his statements about where he stands on the issues, in this story from NCPR News.

Democrat Aaron Woolf began filling in some of the missing pieces of his campaign for NY’s 21st Congressional District this morning, speaking with NCPR’s David Sommerstein and other North Country media (you can hear excerpts from that conversation this afternoon a 4:55 on our air and at ncpr.org; and tomorrow morning on the 8 O’clock Hour.)

Woolf talked about his positions on health care, gun control and lots of other issues.

Press and public have been waiting to hear Woolf’s views and details of his background since Feb. 12, when Democratic Party leaders named him their candidate to replace Rep. Bill Owens. Republicans have used the time lapse to brand Woolf as an outsider who knows little about the vast district.

Woolf is a documentary filmmaker. He splits his time between New York City and Elizabethtown, and also owns a food store  in Brooklyn. Today he said his North Country roots go back to the late 60s.

He said his life and work has taken him to “a lot of different places, “but the one constant place in my life has been Elizabethtown, NY.  It’s the place I learned to change my oil. It’s the place I learned to change a tire, it’s the place I learned to shoot a gun. It’s, I think, the place that has informed me both personally and politically, far more than any other. “

He said, “I’m running for Congress because I see the North Country, I see the New York 21st District at this crossroads moment…we see on one hand immense disinvestment in the region and the consequences of that — Main Street  businesses boarded up and young people not coming back. But at the same time we see these seeds of a new economy.”

He says he’s most proud of how “our legacy skills” in agriculture and forestry “are being re-purposed for a new rural economy.”

Woolf also addressed “dysfunction” in Washington, which  “has the potential to take away all the good work we’ve done in this district.”

Republicans have ripped Woolf over his lack of familiarity with much of the district. He admitted he didn’t know much about Watertown, for example. When he stopped by the NCPR studios last week during a tour to meet with local party and community leaders, Woolf said was getting to know the district, talking to people in both parties.

Today, he said, he’s been building his knowledge base. “It’s always going to be true,” he said, “that I have a more intimate knowledge of the places near where I grew up. But my goal is to know the entire district with a very high level of intimacy.”

Stay tuned…hear more from Aaron Wolf during Story of the Day, and during regional news tomorrow morning, on air and at ncpr.org.

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26 Comments on “A first conversation with NY-21 candidate Aaron Woolf”

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  1. karabiner says:

    Imagine that – a Brooklyn boy learns to shoot a gun! Well, back in the day, the selective service and the US Army and the Marine corps took city boys like Woolf and taught them how to be MEN, Seems with Woolf , his learning stopped after learning “how to shoot a gun”. I find this Brooklyn hot dog hard to swallow and impossible to digest! Stay home in Noo Yawwk Ciddy and leave us alone, Woolf!

  2. The “Woolf Pack” slick and clever PR blitz has begun … it is great strategy – what else would you expect from a film producer? Just keep ’em close, on the hook and wondering who you are, or what you stand for until you want them to know what you want them to know … sounds corny? Actually it is not.

    It might be a good intro to the next Woolf production – next documentary about running for Congress. However, tough issues linger; a lot is on the table in DC. Now even some say “issues don’t matter, it’s just the money.” That may be true at least it seems so for the DEMS across this district who “picked” Mr. Woolf. Money and lots of it they say was the deciding factor – not his knowledge, or skills, or depth of knowledge about national and international issues or lack of an ounce of any military background – but great with the sound bytes. And, the key: he apparently is a millionaire by some accounts. The DEMS said they would “interview interested” candidates, but the did not – I don’t think that happened. He was pushed forward and made his pitch and was chosen as the one and apparently the only one!

    Not to sound too harsh, but 12 people picking a Congressional candidate – heck, why even vote? That process seems hardly fair or democratic. But, hey, that’s just me thinking out loud.

    Issues don’t matter some say – that is, until they do.

  3. Marsha Barton says:

    I totally agree with Danny Francis regarding Aaron Wollf. I cannot believe that the Democratic Chairs would go to a meeting and endorse a candidate and a completely unknown candidate at that. If Mr. Woollf wanted the Democratic endorsement, he should have been working for it. He should have come to the committee meetings in the District and introduced himself as someone interested in running for the position. We, as Democrats, have always prided ourselves on not doing things behind closed doors and being the party of the people. I also do not like the idea of having an outsider represent us. I think someone with some money and special interests has promoted Mr. Woolf and God knows to what end. I was happy to see that Steve Burke has stepped into the race. I know Mr. Burke well and he is an excellent candidate and will look out for our interests. I will support him and urge everyone else to do so.

  4. Kent Gregson says:

    I too feel a little abandoned by the major parties in this rush to load the house with your particular corporate party’s carpetbagger to affect national policy without regard for local issues or nuance. This is the upper part of New York state. A distinct area with distinctly different needs from most of the rest of the US. I don’t favor those who would buy their way into the district in order to move to Washington. Rather I favor the Warren and Saratoga county businessman who would sacrifice a few years in D.C. so that there could be rational, local representation of the place where he does business. Please check out Matt Funicello. He’s running on the green party line because it’s there and doesn’t count on corporate wealth. He’s not a nut. He’s also not a career politician.

  5. Linda says:

    I am a life long Democrat and have never been so disappointed in my fellow Democrats. I am sorry to see Congressman Owens leave us. Unfortunately, I will be voting Republican this year unless the “powers that be” come up with a better alternative than Aaron Woolfe whose ties to the north country is that this is where he learned to shoot a gun. Shame on you!!!

  6. If Clapton is God, Warren Haynes is Jesus says:

    Frankly, the process by which candidates are chosen at the national level stinks and is yet another glowing example of how our two party system is rigged and does not necessarily represent the interests of the constituents. It would be so nice if a third party candidate would run and win this district race without having to cow tow to the party bosses from either the Republican or Democratic party.

    After all, as a percentage of voters nationwide, Independents outnumber those voters of either major party, either Republican or Democratic. Yet we have very few Independents in either the Senate or the House and can never seem to elect one as president. Toss in the absurdity that is Gerrymandering and we have a nation strangled by two parties both bought and paid for by a very select group of special interests. And we call ourselves a beacon of democracy…What a farce!

  7. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    It is time to get over the idea that Woolf is being forced on the district by the Democratic Party hierarchy. Until January Democrats had an incumbent, one who even Matt Doheny believes was a good representative and probably unbeatable – Bill Owens. When Bill Owens withdrew party leaders met to interview candidates and they agreed Woolf was an excellent choice. Does it hurt that he has money? No.

    Is being wealthy an issue with Republicans all of a sudden? Do Republicans think that it is unfair that there are wealthy Democrats? I don’t remember anybody complaint that Reagan was wealthy, or the Bushes, or Romney, Doheny, even Trump. So please, PLEASE make being wealthy an issue in this race. Please bring up campaign finance. Please make an issue of outside money influencing the election in the district.

    Woolf hasn’t been to Watertown? Really? Is that a problem? Because until somebody decides to run for election in this district chances are they have never been to one or two or three or even ANY of the “major” cities in the district. How many people have been to Watertown, Massena, Malone, Plattsburgh, Glens, Falls and Gloversville? Nevermind Johnstown, Saranac Lake, Carthage, Tupper Lake, Lake Placid, Hudson Falls and on and on. And while Watertown may be the largest “city” in the district the town of Queensbury has a larger population.

    So let’s get off all of the nonsense issues and let the candidates discuss the real issues that affect voters. There are choices from 3 parties, let’s hear about their ideas.

  8. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Fun fact. The NY-21 district is bigger than the 4 smallest US states combined, Hawaii, Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island. It is about the size of Massachusetts and New Jersey put together. In fact the Adirondack Park alone is bigger than New Jersey.

  9. Would you like to know more about WOOLF P.A.C.K?

    People Acquiring Critical Knowledge to support Aaron Woolf. WOOLF P.A.C.K

    If you liked that one, wait till you learn about the WOOLF PUPS (People Uniting People Slickly). Oh the fun to be had when you learn about http://www.24hoursofhappy.com and the ( i am OTHER ) peoples project. Or, the WOOLF PUPS who are gearing up to PHIND PHISH PHANS for the coming celebration of the Phourth of July with a three-night stand at SPAC in Saratoga Springs, NY (July 3-5). -> tickets.phish.com

    These are solid ideas being created and contributed by a group of North Country People in the age demographics of 24 – 44, who have a detailed vision originating out of Watertown NY, who will be welcoming everyone to come get involved very soon. Including our senior citizens who have key wisdom that we cannot afford to lose. J. Clancy Hopkins Jr. was one recent huge loss, we will never replace.

    We want to help support Aaron Woolf while bringing our 12 County regions together to learn about each other; so we can all work as one sharing resources, solutions and new ideas to modernize our Northern New York Infrastructure. This is about recognizing old ideas and reshaping them with new.

    The WOOLF PACK has no desire to get wrapped up in political dogma. We envision a future Congress driven by the needs of the future – not another congress person driven by the needs of an uncertain political party with ideas. This is why the Democrats chose Aaron Woolf and why we will support him!

    Thank you Democrats for taking a big risk and doing the right thing. It’s exactly what was needed.

    For the first time in the history of New York State politics, we have a candidate dedicated to listening to all people and working to understand a broad area of various interest and issues, which are hindering the progress of our future. We have a candidate who is listening to us to shape his platform, by understanding where we need and want him to go. In return, we the future are going to get creative.

    This is new, and we are excited Aaron Woolf has stepped up to listen and work hard to represent the entire 21st Congressional District from an innovative citizen’s approach. We find it silly to think that people who are not from our region, should not have a voice in shaping our future, especially when 60% of the people who reside in Jefferson County are not originally from here. WE LOVE YOU FT. DRUM!

    Our future needs to be cut loose and supported for its technological, scientific and societal visions which can empower innovation and futuristic focus; reflecting our shared regional needs and interest.

    We want to become competitive innovators in regional and global markets that can span across borders without unnecessary restrictions and limitations here at home. NYS Small businesses and Innovators should not have to be struggling to expand or be restricted from engaging in business across borders.

    However the North Country is very disconnected across the 12 County Regions. It’s here that we must all work together and get connected and reach out to each other. No matter your political affiliation or lack of affiliation – get ready to meet your brand new neighbors!

    There has been a shift in thought just covered on the recent WPBS Special – BUILDING NORTH COUNTRY INNOVATION. Click to watch video or copy and paste > http://watch.wpbstv.org/video/2365190639/

    Imagine if we added the idea of connecting all of our colleges and universities to regional open- source research and development labs, operated by students who have already graduated or for anyone with intellectual concepts across the 21st? Right now the http://www.startup-ny.com is in fruition that could bring this idea into being a reality throughout this district.

    However the new struggle begins by reaching across counties to UNITE and work together as many!

    Why is Aaron Woolf important to us? He is a candidate with 20 years of proven skills and an ability to communicate issues and needed solutions. A candidate who can return us instructional programming, so that WE THE FUTURE can understand and learn how to get involved, so that we can bring critical needed solutions together that empower a solid working vision in progress – for the people, by the people for the future of our futures future.

    The long term winds of visionary change are in the air! It is time to farm some truly amazing ideas in the 21st by liberating the North Country’s future by thinking together – without having to live in fear, of future economic policies destroying everything we have just invested our livelihoods, cash investments and dedicated hope into bringing to life.

    This campaign is not just about voting for the ideal candidate. This campaign is about establishing a 12 County wide network of motivated thinkers implementing and sharing sustainable ideas that included everyone – with an interest in our economic futuristic progress.

    We invite all futuristic minds who will stand beside our future Congressman Arron Woolf and help be his eyes, ears and muscles on the ground throughout the North Country and all across the 21st Congressional District for the many-many years to come beyond 2014. Thank You for your time to read!

    To keep up with coming developments JOIN Aarons e-mail list. http://www.woolfforcongress.com

  10. I’m about as underwhelmed by Mr. Woolf as I am by Ms. Stefanik. And the media has already decided that the other major party candidates aren’t worth seriously covering.

    I expect we’ll hear some more coverage of Green candidate Matt Funicello. He opposes the sort of corporate control of our government that Democrats and Republicans enable. He is a big supporter of local agriculture, not just in words but in actual deeds. He supports real health care reform. He is not anointed by the party bosses. As a Green, if elected, it would only necessarily be with the broad support across the political spectrum so you know he’d be responsive to real human beings.

    Hopefully, the self-proclaimed “we don’t make news, we just report it” media will abandon their usual practice of blacklisting non-Democrats and -GOP and help fully inform voters as to all their options.

  11. “It is time to get over the idea that Woolf is being forced on the district by the Democratic Party hierarchy.”

    Both GOP and Dem grand pooh-bahs are trying to ram their anointed candidate down the throats of the party as a whole. Apparently, neither corporate party trusts their OWN rank and file voters. If I were a Dem or GOP, I’d be annoyed that they were trying to rig the primary before I even got a say.

    If they view their own party’s voters with such contempt, why should independents and smaller party voters feel they will get a fair shake?

  12. ALL party committees should stay neutral during a primary, which is an internal party vote. The Greens are the only ones actually respecting the democratic process in this way.

    They should not try to be manipulating things with endorsements, pressure to withdraw, etc. in THEIR OWN PARTY’s race.

    What happens if Doheny or Gilbert wins the GOP primary after their own leadership spent months trying to make them lose? Does that help party morale for the general election? Will the GOP politburos resign if their anointed candidate is rejected by GOP voters? Ditto the Dems?

    But really what this Politburo meddling is nothing more than moderate sized fish in a small pond trying to make themselves important.

  13. From Brian above: good points.

    From knuckleheaded liberal, in part wrote: “When Bill Owens withdrew party leaders met to interview candidates and they agreed Woolf was an excellent choice…”

    No, DEMS did not meet to interview “candidates” not one bit … Mr. Woolf was pushed to the top right away by the Warren or Washington County chair (forgot her name), but interested candidates were NOT interviewed … I know, I sent them a letter of interest myself and never heard one peep.

    Mr. Woolf, may be a “good public speaker and film maker,” but he is shallow and weak, very weak on issues about national and international things – and let’s face it, the job is pretty darn high level and important, too. It is not for the fainthearted or OJT. He is not ready for primetime in my view.

    ~ DMF (Watertown)

  14. Peter Hahn says:

    The first question you want to ask yourself is do you want to be represented by someone who is going to vote mostly with the 19th century Republicans or the 21st century Democrats. After that its who is going to work harder for local issues (jobs). Everything else is pretty irrelevant. Mr Woolf will do a fine job.

  15. Correction to Peter’s comment: the question to ask yourself is do you want to be represented by a social liberal corporate tool, a socially regressive corporate tool or someone who represents people not corporations. If the last of those three, then vote for Matt Funicello.

    Don’t believe the myth some will peddle that there will be only two choices.

  16. Peter Hahn says:

    Brian – you arent going to be represented by Matt Funicello. You can vote for him but you wont ever be represented by him.

  17. Peter Hahn says:

    I vote for his bread though

  18. Peter: if I don’t vote for him, I won’t be represented by him. Anyone who feels he has the best agenda should vote for him.

    Besides, in a four way race with two weak corporate party candidates, both carpetbaggers, he certainly has a much better shot than he otherwise would.

  19. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Danny, I checked out your blog and I agree on many issues, nevertheless, I don’t find it strange that you did not hear back about your interest in running. I suspect it was not the result of the Warren or Washington county chair who most likely was not familiar with you, but probably more from someone on your side of the district who considered you unelectable. It don’t mean that as a put down in any way, I myself am completely unelectable. it doesn’t mean you aren’t aware of all kinds of issues, or that you aren’t committed to your ideas but that it would be difficult to get more than a very small portion of the population to vote for you.

    Really, that is the same for Matt Funicello. Matt is a really great guy who bakes great bread and is really committed to all kinds of issues. The problem that Matt will have is that he is too strident, he doesn’t listen to views he disagrees with and that doesn’t make for a good politician. We don’t need people who won’t work together – we already have that and it doesn’t work and nobody is happy about it.

    It is kind of funny that Brian is so forceful about the idea that Woolf is being forced on Democrats by the party since he supports Matt who basically IS the Green Party in the eastern part of the district.

  20. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    By the way, I happen to know the Chairs of the Warren and Washington County Democratic committees, Lynne and Sheila, and their integrity is beyond reproach. Matt F too. I don’t know the rest of the candidates personally well enough to say one way or the other but I suspect Stefanik and Woolf both also have a great deal of integrity. Don’t know a darned thing about Gilbert.

  21. wakeup says:

    What does the Woolf say? blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah

  22. The Original Larry says:

    All anyone wants to do is complain! Do people go to the meetings and do the work that produces a truly representative political party or do they let an active minority choose for them? It’s easier to bitch and moan than it is to go to that Town Board meeting on a snowy Monday night in February. So, we get what we deserve from those that get out and do what we won’t. It’s rather like people who protest pipelines and fracking while driving around in 16 MPG SUVs. Talk is cheap; real progress is hard work and sacrifice.

  23. oa says:

    Lots of interesting new people commenting on the InBox. Some maybe even sent here from email chains. Welcome, all interesting new people! When it comes to the election, may the best carpetbagger win.
    (Also, what Larry said.)

  24. I would like to know where Matt Funiciello, Aaron Woolf, and Elise Stefanik stand on fracking. This is an extremely important national issue. I know that Matt Doheny is a proponent of fracking. What are the positions of the other candidates in the NY-21 race.

    I have taken the Pledge to Resist Fracking in New York. This pledge has been taken by many members of various New York State organizations that oppose fracking, including: Shaleshock, Catskill Mountainkeeper, Grassroots Environmental Education and Food and Water Watch. I challenge the other candidates in the NY-21 race to read this pledge and show where they stand by deciding whether or not to take the pledge.


  25. mervel says:

    This will be interesting. I am sad that we couldn’t get a local candidate, but it is what it is.

    To me the proof will be how these candidates really learn and really grow in their knowledge of this district. Sure you can take any sort of plug in platform and pick any rural district in the country and run on it. What I want to see is an in-depth knowledge of actual issues facing the north country; multi-generational poverty, wind farms, prisons, the dairy industry (which is not a DEAD industry but still one of the largest businesses in the district), the Universities, property taxes, schools going bankrupt across the whole region, etc.

    I hope its not a bunch of pablum about “technology” and fiber optic broad band. We need jobs that pay benefits so our kids can afford to go to the really great universities that are actually located here.

  26. mervel says:

    One of the most important things this person is going to have to do is lobby really hard to keep Fort Drum here, its one of the largest employers in Jefferson County if not the largest, what is their knowledge and understanding of the military and military appropriations? What is their knowledge of how to influence what is going on with the Farm Bill with Dairy regulations, and will they be able to articulate that in Washington? To me neither one of these candidates have a clue about either one of those issues, at least they have not shown it so far, but it is early.

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