Bill Owens to Retire From Congress (Updated) (Video)
Posted at 12:14 p.m. on Jan. 14, 2014
(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Updated 2:31 PM | Rep. Bill Owens, D-N.Y., announced Tuesday that he will retire from Congress after just two full terms.
“After careful thought and consideration, I have decided not to seek re-election for the 21st Congressional District this November,” he wrote in a news release. “It has truly been a privilege to serve, and I plan on continuing to work for a brighter future for the region.”
Owens faced a somewhat competitive race against former Bush White House staffer Elise Stefanik. Republicans view the now-open seat in upstate New York as a potential pickup opportunity in 2014. In 2012, Owens won re-election with just 50 percent.
The retirement instigated a Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call ratings change. The race, previously Democrat Favored, is now a Tossup. Last cycle, President Barack Obama carried the 21st District with 52 percent.
Stefanik is considered a rising star in New York Republican politics. She is 29-years-old and a former Bush White House official. The National Republican Congressional Committee named her as one of their “On the Radar” candidates, which means she passed an assortment of internal organizational and fundraising benchmarks.
Still, The Post-Star, a local newspaper, noted that she faces competition in the primary. The report noted that John James, who played Jeff Colby on “Dynasty” is eyeing the seat.
What will be key to any contender in this race are the local party endorsements.
“It’s a very difficult and or expensive process if you don’t have the support of the local committees,” an Empire State GOP operative said in a Tuesday phone interview with Roll Call.
One potential issue for Republicans is the state’s unique ballots, in which candidates can be listed on more than one party line. The process helped Democrats win the district in both the 2009 special, when Owens first ran, and his subsequent re-election in 2010.
In 2009, the Conservative Party’s candidate led the GOP candidate DeDe Scozzafava in fundraising and polling heading into the final week, causing Scozzafava to withdraw from the special. A year later, Owens again won a tight race as the Republican and Conservative parties’ candidates split the vote.
That same New York Republican operative noted that Stefanik is a speaker at the Conservative Party conference later this month. That source said it was a sign that Stefanik had made inroads with the Conservative Party and the hope is that if she is the nominee, she can reduce the threat of a spoiler candidate emerging from the right.
Owens marks the fifth House Democrat to announce their retirement. To see which other House members are retiring this cycle, check out Roll Call’s Casualty List.
Updated 3:20 PM | A New York Democratic consultant floated three possible contenders: former state Agriculture Commissioner Darrel Aubertine, Town of Plattsburgh Supervisor Bernie Bassett and state Assemblywoman Addie Russell.