A Look Back At Owens' Congressional Career


In early August 2009, Bill Owens was a Plattsburgh lawyer and registered independent, who had been involved in redeveloping the Plattsburgh Air Base after it closed down.

Then Republican John McHugh stepped down from his 23rd Congressional District seat to become Secretary of the Army.

That's when Owens' career path changed.

He became a Democrat and party leaders chose him to be their candidate in the special election called to fill McHugh's seat.

By November, Owens, a first-time politician, had become the north country's first Democratic Congressman since the Civil War.

The race to fill the seat attracted national attention.

Owens faced Republican Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava and Conservative Lake Placid accountant Doug Hoffman.

However, because Scozzafava supported abortion rights and same sex marriage, high-profile conservative Republicans like former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, former Senator Fred Thompson and former House Majority Leader Dick Armey endorsed Hoffman.

Scozzafava ended up dropping out of the race and endorsed Owens.

After Owens finished McHugh's term, he ran for a full term in 2010.

Hoffman ran again as a Conservative and political newcomer Matthew Doheny ran on the Republican ticket.

Prior to Election Day, Hoffman dropped out of the race, but his name was still on the ballot.

Owens ended up winning that race 48 to 46 percent, but six percent of the vote that might have gone to Doheny instead went to Hoffman.

In 2012, the newly formed 21st Congressional District saw Owens seeking re-election.

Doheny once again tried to unseat Owens as did Green Party candidate Don Hassig.

Owens won, prompting Doheny to say he would not run for Congress again.

Hassig announced in September he's running on the Green Party line for the 2014 race.

During Owens' tenure, he has served on Congressional committees, subcommittees and caucuses including Appropriations, Defense and Homeland Security.

He voted in favor of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare shortly after he was sworn into office in 2009.

In November 2013, he crossed party lines to vote for the "Keep Your Health Plan Act."

The Republican bill was designed to allow Americans to keep their healthcare plans even if they don't meet Obamacare standards.

It passed the House of Representatives, gained the vote of 39 Democrats including Owens.

Owens was also the subject of controversy over a trip he took to Taiwan in December of 2011.

Owens said the purpose of his trip was to meet with a tech company which was considering opening a plant in upstate New York, and more generally to encourage investment in the north country.

A report from the Office of Congressional Ethics, a government watchdog group, said Owens "knew or should have known" that the government of Taiwan paid for the trip he took to that country.

Faced with an ethics scandal, Owens reimbursed the sponsor of the trip.

Owens has worked on legislation to promote cross-border trade, pushed for a moratorium on a process targeting post offices for closure, and called for the release of some of the nation's emergency fuel supply.

A political magazine, National Journal, called Owens one of the most conservative-minded Democrats in Congress.

The Owens is the second New York Democrat to announce retirement from Congress.

Last week, Long Island Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy said she's not seeking re-election.

Monday, December 5, 2016
, Watertown, NY

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