Former NY Rep. Bill Owens on 21st District race, party moving left

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A lot has changed in Washington since Congressman Bill Owens represented New York’s 21st district from 2009-2014.

He’s now living the Plattsburgh life, working at his law firm Stafford Owens and serving on several boards.

While he left Washington four years ago, he still has an eye on it. He calls the behavior right now in DC “completely irrational.”

“I think maybe disbelief is probably the best expression I have,” said Owens.

He lists attacks on the press and tough trade rhetoric and tariff policies, namely with Canada, as things that worry him most.

“The failure to respond and speak about that and to take appropriate measures is very concerning,” he said of Republicans in Congress.

He’s witnessing his party move further left on the political spectrum. He calls the progressives call to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) a “ridiculous proposal.”

“Clearly, it appears to be moving further left as the Republicans are moving much further right in the main so that’s a very interesting phenomena,” he said.

Owens served 5 years in Congress representing New York’s 21st district.

He was the first democrat to win the seat since the current district was formed in the 1960’s and the only one from the Plattsburgh area, according to Dr. Harvey Schantz, political science chair at SUNY Plattsburgh.

When Owens stepped down, the seat immediately turned red again with the election of Elise Stefanik in 2014.

“I still think there’s a mixture. Obama won the district, both of his races. Trump won it big the last time by 12, 13 points. So it’s a really a group of people who move back and forth,” said Owens.

Still, Owens expects the November election to go Stefanik’s way and does not anticipate campaigning for the democrat running for the seat, Tedra Cobb.

Cobb was one of five democrats who ran in the June primary.

“She would need to do substantial fundraising and get up on air as soon as possible and stay on air from now until election day. I think if she’s unable to do that then I think she’s going to have a very difficult road,” said Owens.

“When political scientists do statistical analysis, they say the likelihood of an incumbent who won 65% of the vote losing in the next election is very low,” said Dr. Schantz.

Dr. Schantz thinks the expected blue wave (democrats winning a large amount of seats in the U.S. Senate and House) could miss the North Country.

“The democrats need about 23 seats to gain the majority in the U.S. House. This would not be one of the first 23 seats they would win,” he said.

Owens says he has no plans to run for political office again.

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