Henrietta, NY --- Matt Zeller is an army veteran who served our country in Afghanistan and he just quit a job with the C.I.A. (Central Intelligence Agency) so he could begin a run for Congress. Zeller, a Democrat, is vying for the open seat created by the resignation of Eric Massa in March.
Following Massa’s resignation Zeller's life began to change rapidly as he is now in the process of moving back home to Upstate New York while piecing together a Congressional campaign team and trying to make himself known to the voters of the 29th district.
A political newcomer, Zeller found himself in the middle of this Congressional race thanks to the urging of a close friend from college. That friend knew of Zeller’s desire in recent months to leave the Virginia-Washington D.C. area and return home to Upstate New York. The process of wooing him into a Congressional campaign began minutes after former Congressman Eric Massa became national news.
"A friend since college texted me and said, hey, are you still interested in possibly bringing change to Upstate NY?” Zeller explained. “I sent back, why do you think I should run for congress? And he said actually yes, I think it would be a fantastic idea."
Zeller, 28, is a native of Rochester and a former Republican who says he worked on John McCain’s 2000 Presidential Campaign. He enlisted in the U.S. Army days after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and seven years later spent time in Afghanistan as an embedded combat mentor who trained the Afghan National Army and Police. Upon his return from that deployment Zeller said he took a job with the C.I.A. before resigning this month to pursue his congressional aspirations.
"At the end of the day I got sick and tired of looking at a ballot and just not being impressed with anybody,” Zeller said of one motivation to enter the political arena. “I may not be the best candidate out there but I'm sick and tired of waiting for somebody better to show up."
Zeller said he understands the uphill battle that comes with replacing his now-disgraced predecessor (Massa) on the Democratic line of any ballot.
"If we make this a referendum on Eric Massa we are doing a disservice to the constituents that we're trying to represent and the office we're trying to fill," Zeller said.
Zeller also said he recognizes the challenge that comes with competing against a Republican in former Corning Mayor Tom Reed who launched his campaign ten months ago.
"I know that he and I have some substantial differences on the issues facing this district and I look forward to debating him and meeting him," Zeller said.
Matt Zeller will kick-off his campaign Wednesday with planned events in Elmira and Chili.