© 2024
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

#NY21Debate: Woolf, Stefanik, Funiciello

The first general election debate including all three candidates in New York's 21st Congressional District was held Wednesday night and cablecast statewide. 

Democrat Aaron Woolf, a filmmaker from Elizabethtown; Republican Elise Stefanik, vice president of her family’s plywood company and former White House policy advisor,  and Green Party candidate Matt Funiciello, a breadmaker and political activist from Glens Falls, all are vying for Congressman Bill Owens' seat in the North Country after Owens retires.

The three squared off in a debate, hosted by Time Warner Cable News, moderated by Capital Tonight anchor Liz Benjamin, who along with TWC News reporters Brian Dwyer and Matt Hunter asked the questions.

The candidates jibbed and jabbed as they weighed in on current events and topics first and foremost on voter's minds:

ISIS and US Military action in the Middle East

Woolf: "My opponent, Elise Stefanik, was a director of the foreign policy initiative, one of the most hawkish foreign policy think tanks in Washington. They advocate right now for boots on the ground. I think that this is something that the voters in our district deeply do not want."

Stefanik:  "We are in this position today because of President Obama's failed leadership. And my opponent here, Aaron Woolf, is another vote for the failed foreign policy of President Obama. Even President Obama's own secretary of defense and secretary of state said he should have acted sooner and addressed the issue of a rising Isis. So make no mistake Liz, we are in this position today because of a weak commander-in-chief."

Funiciello:  "I think it's very important for all of us to remember that George W. Bush and his administration put us in the Middle East unconstitutionally. Congress did not declare war on Afghanistan or Iraq. We bombed and occupied two sovereign nations."

Credit Time Warner Cable News
Congressional candidates (L-to-R): Aaron G. Woolf, Elise M. Stefanik and Matthew J. Funiciello, debating Wednesday evening at Time Warner Cable News studios in Albany.

The Minimum Wage

 Woolf: "We can promote small business by raising the minimum wage in this district. It's something I've come out very firmly in support of. My opponent, Miss Stefanik, has refused to take a stand explicitly either way. She says we can have a conversation, but the fact is we've been having a conversation for years on this issue.  I'm strongly in favor raising the minimum wage. I think it's good for small business."

Stefanik:  "I'm open to raising the minimum wage, as long as small businesses have a seat at the table. But I believe, instead of focusing on state and national corporations, that we need to make sure that our small business have skin in the game."

Funiciello:  "Nowadays we're letting Walmart and McDonald's decide how much we're gonna make. I read a Bill Moyers piece the other day that says by 2040 almost half of us will be in the service industry. Aaron wants to give you $10.10 an hour. Just enough to get you off all your subsidized programs, housing, food stamps. I want to give you $15. That's what we deserve."

Retirement and social security

 Woolf:  "I will not raise the retirement age. And I would like to know, as somebody by her definition, is at or near retirement, what happens to somebody who's just a year younger than me? A 49 year old who has been paying into the system since they were a teenage? When can they retire? Now, Elise Stefanik has lived a very white collar life. I don't know if you've ever worked manually for a living like I have, and I'm certain that Matt probably has. I don't know if you can say something to a 49-year old who is working with their body, with their hands, it's a very different thing than sitting behind a desk, operating a computer."

Stefanik: "We have to be honest. We are facing tough decisions. The do-nothing approach of my opponent will bankrupt social security, and it won't be there for people in my age group and for future generations. I'm the only one who has the courage to not stick my head in the sand but work on a bi-partisan basis to talk about how we can fix these programs for future generations."

Funiciello:  "The Republicans really are looking to privatize health care. They're looking to privatize Medicare, they're looking to privatize social security. We need to be careful of that, because how do you make something more efficient by taking money out of a fund that's already been built, that is owed to us, it's our money. How do you make more money by building a  profit margin into something that is currently non-profit?  The Democrats won't raise it, because many of their donors, as with the Republicans, are very wealthy people who are saying 'we don't want to pay the extra money.' "

The candidates also discussed sexual violence on college campuses, agriculture, Lake Ontario levels and local issues...    The Post-Star reported the atmosphere behind the scenes at Time Warner’s Albany outlet was tense.  The paper says each candidate had a separate pre-debate waiting area at the studios, and each was led into the studio separately.

A recent Harper Poll puts Stefanik eight points ahead of Woolfand 37 points above Funiciello.

Who won the debate? Everyone has their own opinion.  Time Warner has lifted restrictions to online accessing debate video: no log-in is needed to watch!

No login is required to watch
No login is required to watch
No login is required to watch
No login is required to watch
No login is required to watch

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
Related Content