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NY-21 Green Party candidate Don Hassig. Photos: Natasha Haverty
NY-21 Green Party candidate Don Hassig. Photos: Natasha Haverty

Congressional campaigning as a tool for the revolution: Don Hassig and the NY-21

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In the past couple of elections, third party candidates have had big effects on North Country political campaigns. In 2010, Conservative party candidate Doug Hoffman reshaped the outcome of the NY-23 House race. This year, Donald Hassig will be on the Green Party ballot for the 21st congressional district. It's unclear what effect his campaign will have on the 2012 election. Natasha Haverty reports.

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Natasha Haverty
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Donald Hassig’s goal is not to change the outcome of the election; his goal is to get out his message about the environment and industrial pollution. 

“It’s so frustrating to live under this cloud, having everything controlled by the corporations, to be under the heel of the corporations to the extent that the world is so much worse than it would be if just plain, good, real human beings were in control,” said Hassig.

He says that he has no delusions about getting elected and said, “If I was concerned about not getting very many votes or like concerned about, say, not getting much media coverage, or concerned about any of these things, I would not get much sleep at night. But I’m not concerned about that.”

While politicians today tend to address the economy, Hassig sees the environment and environmental health as the gateway to all other issues. He spent the majority of his life trying to spread the word about pollution and prevention of diseases in the North Country that he says are being caused by industrial waste.

Hassig figures that running for Congress is the most effective way to have his message heard. He has run for both Congress and for governor in the past. “And the only way to get a little more traction for doing the revolution is to be a part of the political process,” he said.

“I do not believe that we can work within the system that exists in the United States and pretty much the rest of the industrialized world, I do not believe that we can work within that, to bring sufficient change to save the earth and the public health,” said Hassig. “I am participating in this Congressional race for the sole reason of having additional opportunities to speak out about needing to have a revolution in every aspect of the word except the violence and the negativity that in the old days was associated with revolution.”

Hassig is the founder of an organization called Cancer Action New York, which is dedicated to preventing the spread of chemical carcinogens that range from PCBs to dioxin. He received widespread attention several years ago when he was the center of a long-running court battle over a chipboard plant proposed for the town of Lisbon in St. Lawrence County. The judge ultimately ruled against him. At the time, he spoke to North Country Public Radio and said, “Well, they’re all politicians and the politicians that I have encountered during my lifetime have been all very, very interested in pleasing business and industry and so we will just battle them as long as, you know, we can.”

Hassig says that running for Congress this year under the Green Party banner is the perfect fit. “When I call up the people that are Green Party-affiliated voters, they give me all these really great ideas that I would never get from Republicans or Democrats because see, they are the system. They take turns running the show in Washington, and then that kind of trickles down to the state and local level,” said Hassig. “The Green Party is the party that wants to change everything.”

When asked what he would do if he did get elected and go to Washington as a Congressperson, he said, “If I became part of the system, I wouldn’t be part of the system. It would be this kick-ass kind of deal where I’d be in Congress just creating havoc, you know. I would never go with anything they wanted because it’s all wrong-minded.”

It is unlikely that Hassig will be going to Washington since his campaign has not caught much fire, even in the North Country’s progressive and green community or on the region’s college campuses. However, he says that he feels things coming together in new ways this year and that there is more sense of revolution in the air.

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