Doheny challenges U.S. Rep. Owens for 23rd Congressional District seat

Democrat Bill Owens, a Plattsburgh lawyer, will try to retain his seat in the traditionally Republic

Democrat Bill Owens, a Plattsburgh lawyer, will try to retain his seat in the traditionally Republican 23rd Congressional District and could be helped — as he was last year — by having both a Republican and Conservative on the November ballot.

This year, his only active opponent is Republican Matt Doheny. Last year, in the special election held after incumbent Republican John McHugh resigned to serve as secretary of the Army, Owens defeated Conservative Doug Hoffman — one of the first candidates embraced nationally by the tea party — by little more than 3,000 votes. Hoffman was Owens’ only active opponent in that race, but Republican Dede Scozzafava was also on the ballot.

Scozzafava succumbed to pressure and withdrew as an active candidate as Sarah Palin and other national figures endorsed Hoffman and millions of dollars from around the nation flowed into the contest. But Scozzafava, an assemblywoman then from St. Lawrence County, still received about 8,000 votes and became the spoiler.

This year a similar scenario is unfolding, as Hoffman is again on the November ballot as the Conservative — even though he withdrew as an active candidate after losing the Republican primary to Doheny.

The Plattsburgh-based tea party affiliate UNYTEA transferred its endorsement from Hoffman to Doheny as such national politicians as Mitt Romney also announced their support.

In a prepared statement, Owens’ campaign said he has “devoted his life to creating jobs, bringing economic development to upstate New York and serving his country.” Owens is an Air Force veteran and noted his great-grandfather served in the Civil War, his uncle in World War I and his father in World War II. Owens said he was instrumental in the effort in Plattsburgh to recruit new companies to relocate to the abandoned Air Force base there, a project that recruited such businesses as Bombardier and created more than 2,000 jobs.

Owens pledged to “keep Fort Drum strong, attract new businesses including alternative energy companies with ‘green jobs,’ protect farmers and invest in jobs programs — especially those to train and place veterans.”

Owens cited a number of bills and initiatives he introduced in the past year including the War on Debt Act and the Northern Border Counternarcotics Strategy Act. He said he helped secure $230 million in new construction funding for Fort Drum as part of the 2011 defense budget, helped secure federal funding to replace the Champlain Bridge and introduced the Farm Credit Expansion Act.

Owens and his wife, Jane, have three children and four grandchildren.

Doheny, running as a fiscal conservative, has pledged to repeal the recent federal health care legislation. In a recent news release, Doheny called the health care bill “an albatross on small businesses as well as individuals and families who have seen their premiums go up by as much as 80 percent.”

He said he advocates replacing the legislation with a more “commonsense” program that includes tort reform, the ability to purchase health insurance from companies in other states and reduced government regulation.

Doheny criticized Owens for voting with the majority in the House of Representatives to adjourn this month without addressing the Dec. 31 expiration of the so-called Bush tax cuts.

“Instead of doing their job and voting against the tax hikes that are coming, Owens and [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi opted to get out of Washington and dodge the issue before the general election,” Doheny said. He is also critical of Owens’ support for the controversial “cap and trade” legislation, proposed by the Democrats to reduce industrial air pollution.

Owens cited Doheny’s work as a Wall Street banker, asserting in a prepared statement that the Republican “helped corporations issue millions of dollars in bonuses while laying off hundreds of workers . . . he supports tax breaks for companies that ship American jobs overseas and has even called for cutting Social Security. Upstate New York can’t afford Matt Doheny.”

Voter registration in the district, which stretches from Lake Ontario to Lake Champlain and south to Fulton County, favors Republicans. The GOP has about 166,000 enrolled voters and the Democrats only 122,000. There are also 21,000 Independence Party members, 5,800 Conservatives and 77,000 listing no affiliation.

Categories: Schenectady County

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