ELIZABETHTOWN - Aaron Woolf, the Democratic candidate for New York's 21st Congressional District, has remained out of the public eye for three weeks since his endorsement by his party's county chairs.
The Enterprise was the first newspaper to attempt an interview with Woolf on Feb 12, during the endorsement process at the Adirondack Hotel in Long Lake. Woolf read a short, prepared speech but did not answer questions, only saying that he was from Elizabethtown and that he was more of a "press release kind of guy."
Stuart Rosenberg is Woolf's new campaign manager. He said this morning he could arrange for the Enterprise to interview the candidate, but not until a week from today. Meanwhile, he said, Woolf has been busy connecting with voters.
(Enterprise photo — Matthew Turner)
"Aaron has been busy introducing himself to the voters of the 21st Congressional District of New York, actively listening to them to learn what they believe should be the priorities for their next Congressman," Rosenberg wrote in an emailed statement. "The residents have made clear that they want to ensure that there are productive, high paying jobs that can support their families in the district, and that their children can obtain an affordable, quality education close to their neighborhoods.
"Residents have also made clear that their next Congressman should not engage in risky schemes that could jeopardize Social Security and Medicare or generally put their retirement at risk."
Woolf registered to vote in Essex County on Feb. 7, five days before the chairs' endorsement, according to an Essex County election official. Woolf had not spoken publicly since his endorsement until Tuesday, when he met at a closed-door meeting with the St. Lawrence County Democratic Committee at a restaurant in Potsdam. Afterward, Woolf spoke briefly with the press, saying only he would make his official campaign announcement in a couple of weeks. When asked what issues are important to him, he had no comment.
Election day is Nov. 4. The Congress seat will be left open by Democratic Rep. Bill Owens, a Democrat from Plattsburgh who plans to retire. The Republicans in the race are Elise Stefanik of Willsboro, Joe Gilbert of DeKalb Junction, Matt Doheny of Watertown and Jamie Waller of Lake Pleasant. Matt Funiciello and Donald Hassig plan to run as Green Party candidates.
Woolf is a documentary filmmaker most notably known for a political film "King Corn," in which a pair of friends go to Iowa to grow an acre of corn and discover the government interventions and subsidies involved in the process. Aside from directing, he also owns a food store in Brooklyn called Urban Rustic.
He served on the Adirondack Council as a board member from 2011 until Jan. 31, when he resigned 12 days before being endorsed for Congress. William Janeway, executive director of the Adirondack Council, said Woolf worked hard during his time there.
"He was a valuable member of our board," Janeway said. "He had a valuable and appreciated perspective on the board."
Janeway said Woolf's time on the council may help him in his campaign, balancing environmental and community issues.
"He worked on behalf of the community and environment," Janeway said. "It's exactly those kind of things he's done."
Woolf and his wife Carolyn own a home in Elizabethtown with their daughter Eloise on a 153-acre property on U.S. Route 9, according to the Essex County tax mapping office. It was a family property passed down to Woolf by his parents. He was added to the deed in 1997. It's not clear whether he lives here year-round or splits his time between here and the New York City area to attend to his store in Brooklyn.
Bernard Duso, an employee at the Aubuchon Hardware store in Elizabethtown, said he has spoken to Woolf on a few occasions over the years.
"He's a very nice gentleman," Duso said. "He has come in here for supplies."
Duso said he does not believe the accusation against Woolf, that he is a summer-only resident of Elizabethtown, as some political opponents have alleged.
"He's come up in the wintertime," Duso said. "He's not a summer resident."
Duso added that he does not think Woolf's ties to Brooklyn will hurt him in the upcoming election.
Wyatt Jackson, a lifelong resident of Elizabethtown, has also seen Woolf around town.
"I talked to him about music one time at a bar," Jackson said. "He seems like a nice guy."
Jackson said he did not know of any connection Woolf might have to Brooklyn.
Many other residents in Elizabethtown have never seen or heard of Woolf until he decided to run for Congress.
Debbie Pierce of Lewis, shopping at a Tops grocery store in Elizabethtown Wednesday, said she has never seen Woolf before.
"I heard he was from Elizabethtown in the newspaper," Pierce said. "I never knew the man. I don't know what he looks like, and I've lived here my entire life."