Plattsburgh lawyer Bill Owens will carry the Democratic Party’s endorsement in the race to replace John McHugh as the Congressman representing the North Country.
Democratic party officials from the 11 counties that make up the 23rd Congressional District met in Blue Mountain Lake Monday and settled on Owens after day-long discussions and at least two rounds of voting.
The party officials said in a statement, “while we interviewed many qualified applicants, we believe that Bill Owens best shares the values of the communities across our district, and will be an effective independent voice for our priorities.”
Owens emerged from a pack of 10 Democrats (an 11th candidate, Mike Oot of Madison County, dropped out before the meeting began) to secure the nomination.
Among the 10 was former Oswego Mayor and former state Democratic Party co-chair John Sullivan, now working for the state in Albany. The political news website PolitickerNY reports Sullivan was one of three finalists, with Owens and Lewis County’s Brian McGrath.
Sullivan reportedly raised more than $10,000 for his campaign in the weekend before Monday’s meeting.
Owens supports gay civil unions but not marriage and opposes the so-called “public option” for healthcare reform, according to PolitickerNY’s Jimmy Vielkind, who spoke with Owens at the party gathering Monday:
In choosing Owens, Democrats seem to be acknowledging a need to get away from the Democratic brand in order to replace McHugh, a moderate Republican. Owens, a Plattsburgh attorney, is currently an enrolled independent. His name and face are not widely known. He has never held elected office. His stances on issues are moderate, and his personality is formal.
“My beliefs and principles are essentially Democratic beliefs and principles, and what label you want to slide on me I don’t think is necessarily appropriate,” Owens told me late Monday in his first interview as a candidate. “I think you have to look at how someone has acted over the span of your lifetime.”
Owens will face Republican Dede Scozzafava, whose views supporting gay marriage and abortion led the Conservative Party to nominate its own candidate, Doug Hoffman.
The National Republican Campaign Committee had its first attack of the campaign all ready to go moments after Owens was picked. Paul Lindsay, NRCC spokesman, said in a statement:
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Now that Bill Owens has been selected by his party, it is only a matter of time before he will try to distort Dede ScozzafavaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s work to create jobs and fight against wasteful spending in Albany. We are prepared to assist Dede in whatever capacity we can to fight against the false attacks and personal smears that have already been spread by her opponents. Voters in central and northern New York are looking for a common-sense leader who can work across party lines to better their communities, and Dede is the only candidate in this race who has a record of doing just that.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The only thing missing is a date for the election. No date can be set until current Congressman John McHugh is confirmed as Secretary of the Army and leaves his Congressional seat. The election is expected to take place on the same day as the annual November elections. McHugh was expected to have been confirmed by now, but two US Senators from Kansas are holding up his nomination and others because they want the President not to bring prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to a military prison in their state.
FULL TEXT OF THE DEMOCRATIC CHAIRS’ NEWS RELEASE:
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Tonight, we are proud to declare our support for Bill Owens. While we interviewed many qualified applicants, we believe that Bill Owens best shares the values of the communities across our district, and will be an effective, independent voice for our priorities. Bill Owens has devoted his career to serving our country and helping create jobs in New York, and in Congress he will use his experience to get our economy moving again and create jobs,Ã¢â‚¬Â said the County Chairs.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve devoted my career to serving our country and helping create jobs in New York State. I am running for Congress to use my experience to get our local economy moving again and create good paying jobs,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Bill Owens.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“As a Captain in the United States Air Force, I proudly served at Plattsburgh Air Force Base. My family and I fell in love with the area and decided to stay here. When the base closed, I went to work to create the Plattsburgh Airbase Redevelopment Corporation (PARC) to ensure the land was used to create jobs,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Owens.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“So far, weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve created more than 500 good jobs and PARC still is growing. We did it by taking advantage of our regional assets Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a well motivated workforce, good infrastructure, good schools and colleges, and access to outside investment and markets. We can do the same thing throughout the 23rd District if we work together with total dedication. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what I will do in Congress,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Owens.
Owens has devoted his life to creating jobs, bringing economic development to the region, and serving his country. As a Captain in the United States Air Force, he proudly served at Plattsburgh Air Force Base. When the base was closed he helped create the Plattsburgh Airbase Redevelopment Corporation to ensure the land was used to create jobs, and currently there are more than 500 jobs based in the region as a result of his leadership. He has also served his community on the boards of many civic and non-profit organizations. He is currently a Managing Partner at Stafford Owens Piller Murnane & Trombley, PLLC.