By ALAN RIZZO
CANTON - Have you heard of Matt Funiciello? Many who visited SUNY Canton’s Roos House on Wednesday for the New York State Senior Action Council’s Seniorama did not. They didn’t even know his party affiliation. And, according to Mr. Funiciello, that’s exactly why he was there.
Matthew J. Funiciello, the Green Party candidate for the state’s 21st Congressional District — who was making his first visit to St. Lawrence County — said that middle and working class voters in the north country are not getting what they deserve out of their elected officials.
He said he wants to change representation to mirror those voters — not millionaires.
“I am the local candidate. I am the one who actually was born here and raised here, and I’m actually the one who works here and owns a business here and employs people here. This is my home, it isn’t theirs,” he said, referring to his rivals, Republican Elise M. Stefanik and Democrat Aaron G. Woolf.
He also believes his opponents don’t take working class voters seriously, and questions the reality of their campaigns.
“They are allowing the national party rhetoric and platitudes to stand; they are going around waving flags, but what are they actually talking about on a substantive level?” he said.
Mr. Funiciello said his message and position is resonating with the readers of local print media, voters whom he calls serious. And he wants to continue that media exposure, striving to get to appearances whenever possible opposite his 50 hour work week.
“I think talking about the issues seriously and like an adult with other people who are in the media, and other people who are voting is incredibly crucial, and neither of my opponents are really doing that,” he said.
According to Mr. Funiciello, media coverage in such a large district is crucial so that voters “find out that there are three candidates, and to know what the third one stands for.”
Those who are reading about him are responding to his position, mid-term voters whom he calls smart and who participate in polls religiously. He hopes that they will watch the three upcoming debates which he calls key to his success.
Mr. Funiciello said supporters include Republicans, Progressives, Libertarians, and Green Party voters who aren’t regular participants, but are excited enough now by his views to get out and vote.
“I have been overwhelmed at the level of support I’ve received,” he said.
Potential voters and Green Party supporters Brian K. and Ann M. Bennett — who were at Wednesday’s event — said Mr. Funiciello must take time to get his name out to people one by one, if he hopes to win.
“People have to see somebody on the ground,” said Mrs. Bennett, arguing that name recognition gets votes. She said many would-be voters are those who can’t spare time to check in on political matters, spending their time “struggling so hard just to survive.”
Mr. Bennett said he wants an overall change of the status quo. “The whole system has to be shook up, from top to bottom,” he said.
As a small “peasant farmer,” Mr. Bennett appreciates that Mr. Funiciello is a small business owner.
“It’s the small business model that made this country great,” he said, believing that unlike most politicians, Mr. Funiciello might walk a mile in his shoes, and encourages him to visit his farm and do so.
Equating Mr. Funiciello with Ralph Nader, he said “that’s the personality, the drive, the passion that the country needs.”