A lawyer, a military man and a member of Congress for three years.
That’s the resume U.S. Rep. Bill Owens, D-Plattsburgh, will be using for re-election from the new 21st Congressional District on Nov. 6.
“Every re-election is challenging, you can’t take anything for granted,” said Sean Mager, the press secretary for Bill Owens.
The new 21st Congressional District was formerly the 23rd Congressional District. The change comes from redistricting mandated by the Constitution to reflect population shifts found in the 2010 Census.
The old 23rd Congressional District included Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lewis, Madison, Oswego and St. Lawrence Counties. For voter registration, 42 percent — or 166,826 — were Republicans and 31 percent — or 122,669 — were Democrats. The new 21st Congressional District includes Lewis, Jefferson, St. Lawrence, Franklin, Clinton, Hamilton Counties and portions of Oneida, Fulton and Essex Counties. For voter registration, the gap between Democrats and Republicans has shrunk. Now the voter registration is 40 percent – – or 158,551 — registered as Republicans and 33 percent — or 128,945 — are Democrats.
Registered Republicans still have a voting advantage over registered Democrats. Kristi Andersen is a political science professor at Syracuse University. This advantage could cause problems for Owens, said Andersen. “Both the old and new districts are heavily Republican. Owens might have a challenging reelection,” said Andersen.
Owens has lived in Plattsburgh for over 30 years. He received his bachelor’s degree from Manhattan College and went on to graduate from Fordham University law school. He has been married to his wife, Jane, for over 35 years and they have raised three children in Plattsburgh. In 2009 Owens began his political career, being appointed to fill the seat of then-U.S. Rep John McHugh, who was named Secretary of Army. To keep the seat, Owens won a special election.
For his 2012 reelection, Owens has pledged to making local job creation and economic recovery his main priorities. “Jobs still remain the issue, even from when I was running in 2009,” said Owens in an email interview.
Owens argues that job creation will come if upstate New York leading the way in green energy. Green energy has created job in upstate New York and should be encouraged for even more job growth, Owens has said. Owens also argues that jobs will be created by maximizing trade between Canada and the United States. Owens also calls for protecting and improving local infrastructure, which he has said will grow jobs in the short and long term.
During his time representing the former 23rd Congressional District, Owens has served as a member on several committees, including the Committee on Agriculture, the Committee on Armed Services and the Committee on Small Businesses.
Owens voted in favor of the Affordable Care Act, the new health care law signed by President Obama in March 2010. On his website, Owens says it will help families afford health care.
Owens prides himself on working toward reducing the national deficit and returning money from his own office budget. “We can’t seriously talk about reducing the national debt without running our own offices in a fiscally responsible manner,” said Owens in an email interview.
For his campaign piggy bank, Owens has about $1 million. As of April 13, Owens had raised $804,480, according to campaign finance reports with the Federal Election Commission. “We are happy with our fundraising so far, and as the election approaches we are hoping for more donations,” said Owens.
Owens has been out visiting voters and getting to know his new 21st district. “It’s important to get out on the ground,” said Owens. “Because you hear and learn things that you wouldn’t, if you’re not visiting people.”
(Amanda Watkins is a graduate student in broadcast and digital journalism.)