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Democrats Hold "Women For Woolf" Rally In Glens Falls

Lucas Willard

Democrats gathered in Glens Falls Tuesday, where Congressional candidate Aaron Woolf discussed his platform on protecting women’s rights, healthcare, and Social Security.

Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen opened Tuesday’s press conference on Women’s Equality Day, where Woolf’s campaign introduced his “Women for Woolf” platform.

“I’m here as a woman, as a mayor, as a mother, and as a citizen to say Aaron Woolf is the only candidate in this race, in this district that will be supporting women into the next century,” said Yepsen.

In the race to replace retiring Democratic Congressman Bill Owens in New York’s sprawling 21st district, Woolf is running against Green Party candidate Matt Funiciello and Republican candidate Elise Stefanik. At the press conference, Woolf announced his platform of supporting paid leave and childcare and the Violence Against Women Act.

He also called for raising the minimum wage and passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

“We still have not assured the same opportunities as men,” said Woolf. “A female, full-time worker makes only 77 cents for every dollar that a man earns. This adds up to a yearly wage gap of nearly $11,000.”

Woolf made little mention of Funiciello, singling out his Republican opponent in the race for the district that stretches across Northern New York and is considered one of a handful of swing districts in the state.

“But Elise Stefanik said during her primary that she wouldn’t support raising the federal minimum wage. Now she’s backpedaling. This is becoming a pattern. She still refuses to take a firm stance, though, one way or the other.”

Stefanik has said she would support a raise in the minimum wage if there was support from small business.

Stefanik previously served as an advisor to Congressman Paul Ryan during his run for the vice presidency. Ryan has endorsed Stefanik. Woolf has repeatedly characterized Stefanik as an author of a 2012 Republican platform that excluded the Paycheck Fairness Act and restricted a woman’s right to choose. An animated Congressman Paul Tonko of the neighboring 20th district also took to the podium.

“If someone has been in a leadership role that denies a number of these dynamics, then let that speak to us. But sometimes the strongest voice for women may happen to be men in the legislative process. This man is not going to hold back women, he’s going to promote women in the effort,” said Tonko.  

Stefanik’s campaign has said she “did not have editorial control or responsibility for the platform document.” Stefanik has also expressed her support for the Paycheck Fairness Act and equal pay for women.

Carrie Woerner, a Democratic candidate for New York’s 113th Assembly district seat, also spoke at the meeting. State Senate candidate Madelyn Thorne was also in attendance.

But in a question and answer period, reporters called on Woolf to clarify his own stance on several issues, including Social Security, Medicare, and the Affordable Care Act.

Woolf said he would not make any changes to Medicare or Social Security. He said growing the economy and raising the minimum wage would be the best way to protect Social Security.

“I think the economy is growing. I think it’s really important that growth extend to all working families in this district, and I think those are very strong ways of growing our Social Security trust fund. As I mentioned also, cutting loopholes for millionaires and billionaires.”

Woolf criticized Stefanik’s own lack of clarity on her position to maintain or raise the retirement age. Stefanik abruptly ended a Monday interview with reporters when pressed on the same question.

In an email to WAMC, Stefanik campaign spokeswoman Charlotte Guyett wrote:

“Elise does not support any changes or reductions for Social Security for those in or near retirement. However, Aaron Woolf's do-nothing approach will bankrupt the program for future generations.”

Woolf did not answer a question on whether he would have voted for the Affordable Care Act, but called the law flawed. He supports making changes to it.

Guyett wrote Woolf’s support for Obamacare hurts North Country women by raising healthcare costs. She also mentioned the Stefanik campaign’s Women Advisory Team and support from GOP State Senators Betty Little, Kathy Marchione, and Patty Ritchie.

Update 8/28/14: In response to a request by the Stefanik campaign, this story has been updated to clarify Elise Stefanik's stance on minimum wage and the Paycheck Fairness Act

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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