Green Party congressional candidate Donald Hassig said Monday he was not being racist when he said Mexicans should not be working on American dairy farms.
He made the comment Thursday night at a forum in the hamlet of Wanakena in St. Lawrence County, part of the sprawling 12-county 21st Congressional District. It earned him a quick rebuke from Green Party co-chairs Gloria Mattera and Michael O’Neil. They posted a news release on the party’s website disavowing Hassig’s candidacy and saying that his position is contrary to theirs.
“With his statements, Mr. Hassig has placed himself outside the Green Party’s platform and its values. Hassig petitioned to be on the Green ballot line, but we do not consider him a Green candidate,” Mattera said in the release.
McNeil said Hassig’s “views are completely against the principles of Green politics and the Green Party. … We call on Greens to condemn the suggestion of violence against migrant workers and instead work in solidarity to confront the global trade policies that induce so many to travel far from their families under dangerous circumstances for such precarious employment.”
Hassig, 56, said he intends to continue campaigning until the Nov. 6 election. He faces Democrat Bill Owens and Republican Matt Doheny.
Owens, D-Plattsburgh, currently represents the 23rd Congressional District. He was first elected to Congress in 2009. Owens and Doheny faced each other in 2010, when Doheny lost by 2,000 votes.
“I am still on the ballot line and am still in this campaign,” Hassig said.
Hassig denied he is a racist and that he stands by his comments. He said his comments are central to his view that some farm workers abuse cows.
“I am an animal-rights activist and I said Mexicans should not be milking American cows. Mexicans can’t read and write English,” he said.
He said the language barrier could result in harm to animals as foreign workers cannot read directions on equipment or on chemicals that are used every day on dairy farms.
He said he was making an observation that the workers are from Mexico.
“I said Mexicans. That is what everyone calls them. It does not matter what they are. They do not speak English and they do not read English,” he said. “I know the voters up here. They like me saying they do not want people from Mexico milking cows. They want to milk the cows themselves.”
Hassig made the statement in response to a question that asked his position on the use of immigrant workers as farm laborers. Both Doheny and Owens support changing the H-2A visa requirements to allow migrant workers to remain longer on farms.
In published reports, Hassig also said he would like immigrant workers to leave the country and that they are taking away jobs from North Country workers.
Hassig said the debate question was a perfect way to talk about cows being abused in what he termed “factory farms.”
He said a factory farm relies on growth hormones, antibiotics, high-yield feed, artificial insemination and other techniques to force cows to produce large quantities of milk as quickly as possible. The process shortens their lives by about half, he said.
He said he respects all races and does not advocate violence against people; he just does not condone the abuse of cows in any form.
“I was born to be a farmer, and I have taken care of cows all my life. It is not right. Cows are being abused. I care about cows,” he said.
Hassig said no one from the Green Party contacted him before disavowing his candidacy and he called on the party to retract its statement or else face a lawsuit.
“They never talked to me, they never said anything to me. This is all so dirty and unfair,” he said. “They got so many people jumping all over me. They do not know I am not a racist, that I love cattle,” he said.
Hassig describes himself as an “environmental revolutionary.”
“I am really about the revolution. We need to get the good people out onto the streets and bring an end to [expletive] rich businesses. No more banks, no more cheating, no more doctors. I would create an economy that produces what we need, not what we want,” he said.