Owens says he won’t seek re-election

U.S. Rep. Bill Owens, D-Plattsburgh, who has served in Congress since 2009, has announced he won’t seek re-election for the 21st congressional district in November.

“It is time for me to undertake new endeavors and spend more time with my family,” Owens said in a news release. “Even though I will not seek re-election, it is my goal that the next phase of my life will continue to focus on helping to improve the lives of all New Yorkers, primarily through job creation and economic development.”

Owens’ 21st congressional district includes Fulton and Hamilton counties, and one of his offices is in Gloversville. He was re-elected in November 2012 to a two-year term.

“I have enjoyed the opportunity to travel the district, meeting and serving the families and business owners of this vast community. It has truly been a privilege to serve, and I plan on continuing to work for a brighter future for the region,” Owens said in the news release.

“My appreciation for the support of my wife, children, grandchildren and close friends cannot be sufficiently expressed in words. There are others – too numerous to list – to whom I owe a great debt of gratitude. The remainder of my term will be spent in much the same way as the previous four years: assisting constituents with their individual concerns, continuing to focus on passing a Farm Bill, helping to create jobs in our communities, working for our troops and veterans, keeping the northern border secure and fluid and being a voice in Congress for bipartisanship, as well as fact-based decision making. You can count on me to work with and for you over the remainder of my term,” he said in the news release.

Owens, 64, serves on the Committee on Appropriations, the Subcommittee on Defense and the Subcommittee on Homeland Security.

Owens and his wife, Jane, live in Plattsburgh. They have three grown children and four grandchildren.

During a conference call with members of the press, Owens said the idea of not seeking re-election first crossed his mind about six weeks ago. After a series of conversations with his family, Owens decided he would not run for re-election.

Owens said his decision did not come about because of any health problems, frustration with partisan gridlock or concern about facing another tight race for Congress. The congressman noted he is ready to “move on” and spend more time with his family.

During the conference call, Owens said he has no specific plans regarding what he will do in the private sector after his term ends.

Owens was born in Brooklyn. He is a graduate of Manhattan College and Fordham University School of Law. He served in the U.S. Air Force, stationed at the Plattsburgh Air Force Base. After completing his service, Owens stayed in the North Country, where he built a law practice and raised a family.

Owens first won election to Congress in a special election in November 2009 and began serving that month. He won election to a full two-year term in 2010 and was re-elected in 2012 to the renumbered 21st district.

The 21st district spans more than 16,000 square miles, making it one of the largest districts east of the Mississippi River. It comprises all or part of the following 12 counties: Fulton, Hamilton, Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Herkimer (partial), Jefferson, Lewis, Saratoga (partial), St. Lawrence, Warren and Washington.

During the conference call, Owens said he has no reason to believe the Democrats will lose control of the the 21st district.

“I was a pleasant surprise in 2009,” he said, adding that the party could find another pleasant surprise for itself this year.

In 2012, Owens reimbursed a Taiwan university for a $22,000 trip he took to the island with his wife.

The House Ethics Committee reviewed the four-day 2011 trip to the Chinese Culture University in Taiwan after allegations of ethics violations became public. Park Strategies, a lobbying group, was involved in the planning of the trip.

In November, the Ethics Committee closed the matter and ended its review because it was unable to obtain information necessary to conduct a complete review. Neither the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office nor the Chinese Cultural University would cooperate with the Ethics Committee, according to the November report.

However, the report noted, “Representative Owens should have known that the trip was not a proper privately sponsored trip because of the lobbying firm’s continued involvement, which the committee was unaware of. For this reason, the payments by CCU for Representative Owens’ travel expenses were improper.”