Congress candidate Hassig discusses activism, issues

Green Party candidate Donald Hassig is keeping good on his promise to run until he gets elected.

Hassig, of Colton, recently announced he will run again in November 2014 for the 21st Congressional District seat held by Plattsburgh Democrat Bill Owens. Two Republicans, Joseph Gilbert of De Kalb Junction and Elise Stefanik of Willsboro, announced in August that they are also running.

Hassig was the Green Party candidate in last year’s contest against Owens and Republican Matt Doheny, although state party leaders revoked their endorsement in response to comments Hassig made last October at a candidates’ forum in Wanakena. Hassig accused foreign workers of taking jobs from North Country residents, and included the statement: “I do not want Mexicans on the farms of St. Lawrence County, or the farms of Clinton County, or the farms of Washington County – any of these farms. … I would like to see them get their asses kicked out of here.”

The Green Party found the remarks offensive, but Hassig defended the statements in a recent phone interview with the Enterprise. He said Green Party officials should have spoken to him before denouncing his candidacy.

“I said something that I’m perfectly comfortable with having said,” Hassig told the Enterprise. “I said that Mexicans are milking cows because that’s the nationality of a lot of the people milking cows in the North Country that I’m familiar with. I said that because I feel that it’s inappropriate for them to be taking jobs away from Americans.”

With the election about 14 months away, it is too early to tell how things will play out, but one thing is certain – Hassig plans on running.

“The actual grassroots of the party, the Green Party voters, they are good, reasonable people,” Hassig told the Enterprise.

Hassig is also the director of Cancer Action NY and acted as both a candidate and an activist during his campaign last year, doing his best to convince people that eating animal fat leads to cancer. Several demonstrations of civil disobedience resulted in him being arrested during that time.

Last week, Canton Town Judge Cathleen O’Horo dismissed a trespass charge against Hassig that stemmed from an incident on Oct. 30, 2012, when Hassig gave a demonstration at the St. Lawrence County Human Services building called “Kicking Ass on Breast Cancer.”

“I used my beloved freedoms to speak out against the failure of the national, state and county public health entities to provide the public with a warning of the persistent organic pollutants (POPs) exposure health hazard constituted by the presence of POPs in the animal-fat-containing foods of the mainstream food supply,” Hassig wrote in a press release. “No governmental public health entity in the United States has yet published and disseminated a health hazard advisory for POPs.”

These and other incidents reflect Hassig’s stance that the government needs to inform citizens about the potentially hazardous chemicals they might be exposed to, and that the U.S. needs to bring jobs back to its shores.

“The public wants to know how to avoid chemical exposure, and the government, because of the corporate control that exists there, is deliberately choosing not to provide this information,” Hassig said. “We want our public health entities to provide warnings. They don’t do it, except in the case of things like cigarette smoking, on things that can be blamed on the individual.”

Like every candidate, he says the North Country needs more jobs, but Hassig said improving that situation will be limited until the federal government makes drastic changes.

“Until we get out of the WTO (World Trade Organization), and start having American manufacturing providing for American consuming, then there won’t be the kind of jobs that there used to be,” he said.

Hassig doesn’t think everything about the federal government is bad, though. He applauded the Affordable Health Care Act as a step, albeit an imperfect one, in the right direction for the country.

“I think it’s a good start, and I’m hoping that it will be able to improve and turn into what all the other major nations of the world have,” Hassig said. “The major nations all provide good health care, and I think ours should be coming closer and closer to free. What I’m promoting in my campaign is free, single-provider health care, and that single provider is the federal government.”

While some fear too much government involvement in people’s lives, Hassig said our current federal government isn’t involved enough.

“We created federal government because we wanted some big, powerful entity that we could create by working together, that’s bigger than the individual entity,” Hassig said. “We created that because we knew, and the founding fathers knew, that it takes a big player to tackle all these things. We need environmental protection from our federal government. We need good decision making on international affairs instead of getting into all these wars. We need health care, and we need free education from our federal government, and we need government to control corporate entities.”

Hassig said his political career is just beginning and added that soon, his time will come.

“I’m not going to stop,” Hassig said. “I believe in this, and I suspect by 2020, things will have become so clear to so many people that it’ll be very easy to get elected.”