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

Woolf Passes On 2016

Aaron Woolf

Democrat Aaron Woolf challenged Republican Elise Stefanik in November’s race for New York’s 21st Congressional district seat. It was a three-way race to fill the seat of retiring Democrat Bill Owens. A first-time candidate, Woolf lost by 20 points and Stefanik became the youngest woman elected to the U.S. House.  In an e-mail blast to supporters this morning, Woolf announced he will not run again in 2016.  But he tells WAMC’s North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley he will stay involved and is leaving the door open for a possible future campaign.
“It’s a changing landscape. I think we live in an evolving district. I also think that for whoever the candidate is on Democratic side in 2016 there is a real clear path to victory.”

What is that path?

“Well I think it’s going to be a very different situation. A very different landscape in terms of turnout. I think there’s going to be a lot of attention on the Democratic side, whether it’s for Hillary or Bernie Sanders or somebody else.  And I think the conventional wisdom is that our district is still a swing district and I think we’re going to see a lot more success on the Democratic side.”

Is your loss in 2014 a factor at all here?
“You know I think the real factor is for me, and it may seem like a political cliché but the high point of my day is often driving my daughter to school.  She’s 4 years old. It’s clearly a very precious time.  I think there may be other political opportunities in the future but there won’t be another time when my daughter is four years old.”

In your letter to supporters announcing that you will not be running for Congress in 2016 you outline four areas where there are issues facing the country and the North Country, like the workforce and the ability of the area to be a national energy leader. How can you advance and make progress on those issues as “a member of the community” and not be inside the government?

“Well I think  one of the things that’s really struck me after some of the bruising wore off after the election is that there is a lot of things that I can and am doing as a citizen that I said I had hoped to do as a Congressperson. I am working on a film now about localizing our energy.  We just got a major grant to produce that film.  Working with a food distribution startup that’s going to focus on local agriculture. And I even put together a working group to try to attract recreational industries to the region and got some of that wording into the REDC grant proposal. So while I’m not, you know nothing would have pleased me more than to represent our district in Washington, I feel like a lot of the things that I talked about on the campaign I’m doing now as a citizen.”

Have you considered running for a different office, maybe more local or state level?

“I think for the time being my decision is really a family decision. And that means working on the things I just described and spending time with the family in the North Country.  But we are really enjoying the little things we’re doing in the community.  My wife is on the ambulance squad in E-town now. I’m serving on the board of Mountain Lake Public Television. And again working on local energy and food. I think those are great things to be focusing on.”

Do you see any potential democrats who would be a strong challenger to Stefanik in 2016?

“Well I know there’s Mike Derrick. I know he’s been talking about making a run. He has a distinguished record as a colonel in the Army.  I’ve heard about some other potential candidates. I think there’s a real chance to have a democrat win this race.”

I was going to ask if you think a Democrat can recapture this district when it’s got such a Republican history?

“I really do. I think one of the reasons why is because it’s not so much about whether it’s a Democrat or a Republican. I think the candidate that’s focusing on the issues we’re talking about – long term investment, education, bringing jobs to the region.  We are really unique in that I think in the end we will vote for the candidate that has the ideas that we find align with our principles regardless of party affiliation. So democrat or republican the right candidate can win this race.”

And obviously your campaign for Congress was a very compressed campaign.  How quickly, how soon, should any Democrat step up to challenge Elise Stefanik in the Congressional race this time around?

“You know I would say tomorrow. This is really a…this is something that was a great disadvantage I think to us is having to ramp up so quickly.  I’ll be the first to admit that I was a new candidate and there’s a lot to learn when you start this process.  But I think starting now is really the right thing.”

We’ve got Citizens United. We’ve got all of the PACs out there. How much has money been an issue in your decision and from your experience from the previous campaign?

“Look I think that money is the central issue in what we need to do in terms of election reform in this country. I think there’s a clamor for that on both sides. It’s going to be incredibly difficult. But if we want to look at a place to begin certainly making sure that money that’s donated to super-PACs is traceable is a good start.  At this point you could have a foreign government giving millions of dollars to a super-PAC that supports a particular candidate and nobody knows about that. That would be a really good thing to focus on.  I just think from a candidate’s standpoint I was able to see things that I never could see even during decades as a journalist.  I’d interviewed dozens of politicians before I ever ran for elected office. And the perspective of actually being a candidate and seeing how much fundraising dominates the process  was a real wake up call for me.  In this period in which I’m not going to be running for office it’s certainly something that I’d like to find a way to address.”
Aaron, you live in one of the areas that was searched during the escape from the Clinton Correctional facility.  What do you think should be done and what sort of investigation do you want to see as we look at the aftermath of the escape of Richard Matt and David Sweat?

“It’s tough for me to answer.  What I want to say is that I’m incredibly proud of the law enforcement and the corrections officers that helped to bring this episode to a close.  It was very close to home for us. When the convicts seemed to be seen in Willsboro that was on Middle Road less a mile from my daughter’s school. So the school went on lockdown.  A lot of us in the area found ourselves locked out of our homes because people locked their doors for the first time. I’m very grateful that the experience for all of us has come to a close and I’m very impressed with the people that helped bring that about.”


Related Content