A Green Party primary is likely to happen, with candidates Matt Funiciello and Don Hassig both saying they will be on the ballot in the race for New York's 21st Congressional District.
Both candidates agreed Thursday to a debate or forum-style event on the issues.
Funiciello, the owner of Rockhill Bakehouse Cafe in Glens Falls and Rockhill Bakery in Moreau, said he currently has enough signatures to be on the primary ballot.
"I do have enough signatures technically to get on the ballot, but I'll see if I can get more than that so I don't get thrown off the ballot," Funiciello said.
Hassig, a 2012 Green Party Congress candidate and anti-cancer activist from Colton in St. Lawrence County, has 21 signatures. He needs 55.
"I've got nearly half of my petition signatures done," Hassig said. "Ninety-nine percent of the people I approach about it quickly sign up."
Green Party candidates need to have 5 percent of their registered voting base in the congressional district. There are about 1,100 registered Green Party voters in the district, according to both candidates, which means they need to collect 55 signatures, significantly less than the 1,250 a Democrat or Republican needs.
Funiciello said he has a dozen volunteers helping him raise signatures. His campaign is based from an upstairs office in his Glens Falls cafe. It is not currently staffed. Funiciello said his campaign manager Peter Lavenia, who works for former presidential candidate Ralph Nader, will begin working on a full-time basis in about a month-and a-half.
"We've been feverishly spending our people power going out and finding the Greens." Funiciello said. "We have basically been focusing on our part of the district so far. I know there are enough Greens here."
Hassig has been visiting Potsdam, Canton and Odensburg. He has been collecting signatures by himself.
"I'm doing every bit of it on my own," Hassig said. "I have the time to do it."
The deadline for petitions is April 10.
Funiciello plans to double the amount of signatures he currently has due to worries over legal challenges by other parties.
"We're assuming any third-party candidate who attempts to get on the ballot, either corporate party, which sees them as a bigger threat to their base will attempt to get them off," Funiciello said. "I am expecting a lawyer maybe from the Democratic Party."
Hassig said he believes Funiciello was put forward by party leaders due to "bad blood" between him and members of the state leadership.
"Those people don't matter at all... only the voters," Hassig said. "It's the individual people who are part of the grapevine. It's the people, the real people, who decide who gets the Green Party ballot line.
"They don't like me because I took a strong stand up here. ... and now they are fracking with me."
Hassig said he has been a stronger activist than his opponent and that Funiciello lacked activist experience. He later retracted those comments about Funiciello in an email after the interview. He said the comments were made in anger over difficulties with Green Party leadership.
He later spoke with Funiciello and said they agreed on several environmental issues.
"I called Matt Funiciello, and we spoke substantively on a number of issues," Hassig wrote in an email. "I asked him what his position was on hydro-fracking. He stated that he opposed this energy extraction activity ... He stated that he was concerned about the Keystone XL pipeline and the oil trains that are bringing crude oil to the Port of Albany."
Hassig said he hopes to maintain a cordial relationship with Funiciello and his campaign throughout the rest of the primary process.
During the conversation, both candidates also decided a debate should happen somewhere geographically in the center of the congressional district.
"We discussed how to give Green Party voters the best information for making their choice of candidates in the June primary election," Hassig wrote. "We agreed to hold at least one debate/candidate forum style event."
Contact Matthew Turner at 518-891-2600 ext. 25 or firstname.lastname@example.org.