Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 8, 2016

Bill Owens to Retire From Congress (Updated) (Video)

(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.

  • Devin McMusters

    That was almost a sure thing re-election for him. I’m hearing Addie Russell’s name to replace him.

  • terjeanderson

    Russell is young and politically talented – she’d be a strong candidate. She might suffer some north country backlash over her vote on the gun bill.

    The other Democratic name being mentioned is Daniel Aubertine – more established and a shade more conservative.

    I’d expect other names to emerge in the coming hours and days.

    Either one would be a good choice.

  • Devin McMusters

    Darrel is old and used up. He’s been tainted by his political patronage jobs.

  • Eric M Krehemker

    Of all the retirements that have happened in the last few weeks this one might be the most telling. He is not a 20 year veteran and he narrowly won reelection. It could be just an odd circumstance or it could be a telling sign that many Democrat congressmen are asessing their viability considering the political climate.

  • Letscheck

    Maybe a lot of Dems have woken up to what they have done and are now realizing the foolishness of their Obama Insanity which led them to do very many bad things as members of Congress…I can only hope that they are beginning to shake off the kool aid and get back into reality…

    The Dems threw their reputations into the gutter for the past five years…or more,,.

Sign In

Forgot password?



Receive daily coverage of the people, politics and personality of Capitol Hill.

Subscription | Free Trial

Logging you in. One moment, please...