Green Party candidate for 21st Congressional District appears at Potsdam Summer Festival, encouraged by populist primary sentiment
Friday, July 15, 2016 - 5:32 pm

Green Party Congressional candidate Matt Funiciello speaks with Joe Liotta of Norwood. The pair are at Funiciello’s booth on Friday in downtown Potsdam for Summer Festival. North Country This Week photo by Andy Gardner.

By ANDY GARDNER

POTSDAM -- A wave of populist voter sentiment in the presidential primary may make the upcoming congressional election more favorable to a third party candidate, according to the Green Party’s hopeful for the 21st District.

Matt Funiciello is seeking the seat for the Greens amid what he sees as local “anti-establishment voters” heavily backing candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in April.

“I actually think I’m going to do a lot better and make it a three-way race, maybe even a two-way,” he said, speaking at his booth at the Potsdam Summer Festival on Friday.

He is no stranger to the local congressional ballot. In 2014, he squared off against Republican Elise Stefanik, who won the seat, and Democrat Aaron Woolf. Funiciello took 10.6 percent of the vote that year.

“Our congressional district went entirely non-establishment, or at least what they felt was,” he said. Sanders and Trump each carried St. Lawrence County for their respective parties.

He says Sanders’s decision earlier this week to endorse Hillary Clinton was no shocker.

“I expected Bernie to do exactly this,” he said. He hasn’t lied, he hasn’t done anything he’s said he wouldn’t do.”

Funiciello says Sanders has supported pro-war and pro-military measures while representing Vermont in the Senate that he would not approve.

“I’m not for ‘go along to get along’ … I’m against Predator drones, the F-35, blindly supporting Israel,” he said.

“He’s caused a lot of Democrats to realize the system is rigged,” according to Funiciello.

As for his competition in November, he says they serve corporate and big party masters, not the 21st Congressional District constituents. He will once again square off with Stefanik and Democrat Mike Derrick, a retired U.S. Army colonel.

“Stefanik is clearly taking orders from powerful people … corporate lobbies,” Funiciello said. “Mike must be doing the same. He has access to corporate money, access to the Democrat money tree. How did he do that?

“I like Mike and Elise as human beings … but I disagree with their politics.”

He is not worried that his candidacy would take votes away from Derrick on the Democrat ticket.

“There isn’t a Democrat. There is a Republican running as a Democrat,” he said. “It’s ridiculous … I have Democrats saying I’m a spoiler … [Derrick] was a Republican until last year.”