WATERTOWN — Aaron G. Woolf, the Democratic candidate for the 21st Congressional District, won a tactical victory by default in escaping the bitter primary battle that depleted the campaign coffers of his Republican opponent, but he also lost the opportunity to gain the kind of media exposure he will need to win the sprawling district.
Mr. Woolf appeared in Watertown on Tuesday for the grand opening of the state Democratic Party office in the Masonic Temple on Washington Street, where, amid allusions to history, he pitched himself as a moderate candidate to an enthusiastic crowd of several dozen supporters.
“I am running in a race in which there is a candidate on my left and there’s a candidate on my right and both of them represent some very extreme ideas about the left and about the right,” Mr. Woolf said. “We are living in an era in which those kind of extreme ideas in Congress have taken what retiring Congressman Rush Holt said was once the greatest deliberative body in the history of civilization and turned it into the least productive Congress in the history of this country.”
Mr. Woolf faces Republican Elise M. Stefanik, a Harvard graduate and former staffer in the George W. Bush White House, and Green Party candidate Matthew J. Funiciello, a Glens Falls bakery and cafe owner, in the November election.
The National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee has criticized Mr. Woolf for failing to offer substantive positions in his campaign and apparently sees him as vulnerable to attacks from Mr. Funiciello, who has staked out strong liberal positions on health care, national defense and campaign finance.
Mr. Woolf said that he was offering a much more “nuanced” platform than his two opponents and that his candidacy would appeal to a people from many different political orientations.
Barbara B. Schell, Evans Mills, who attended the event with her husband, Clifford E., said she considered herself to be very liberal but was supporting Mr. Woolf because he offered the best chance at progress, which she defined as “slow, steady improvement.”
“He definitely appeals to the liberal element,” Mrs. Schell said, adding that while she thought Mr. Funiciello’s ideas were interesting, she didn’t think the Green Party candidate had a very good shot at winning the race.
Following his remarks, Mr. Woolf was caught off guard by a reporter’s question about the millions of dollars in personal assets revealed in his U.S. House-mandated financial disclosure report.
Asked whether he thought his personal fortune would make it difficult to connect to north country voters, Mr. Woolf paused for more than 30 seconds before replying that connecting with voters has less to do with personal assets than ideas.
Video of Mr. Woolf’s visit can be found at http://wdt.me/0729_woolf.