Growing up in the Woodstock area in Ulster County, Weiss moved to Rensselaerville seven years ago and said the availability and openness of his state senator in Woodstock inspired him to run against Breslin once he moved to Albany County.
"I remember when I lived there we had this Republican state senator named Charlie Cook and every two years he would come to town and hold an open forum," Weiss said. "When I moved to Rensselaerville and asked who the state senator was and people said 'Neil Breslin,' and I asked them if he was a good guy and they said 'I don't know, I've never met him.'"
Weiss said, "That's the kind of arrogance I didn't like," adding that Albany and Albany County "doesn't even care about the Hilltowns."
Weiss' use of the term "hilltowns" refers to the rural towns of Albany County such as Berne, Knox, Westerlo and Rensselaerville, which make up roughly half of the county.
Weiss, who is 52, points out that Breslin was the same age when he ran for state senate, and Weiss feels he is more prepared for the seat than Breslin was when he won, even though Weiss has no actual experience serving a public office.
"Neil was 52 when he ran and Neil had absolutely no social change experience," said Weiss. "I came to this way more prepared then he ever will be."
Weiss touts a long resume of social activism.
In 1973, at age 17, he co-founded The Ulster County Environmental Task Force to oppose the planned construction of four nuclear power reactors in Cementon, a plan that was eventually defeated. Weiss said he discovered that the power plant cooling towers would spread large amounts of PCBs from the 28 million gallons of cooling water taken from the Hudson River each day. He said that became the key reason the "largest proposed nuclear power park was permanently stopped."