New York - 23rd District
Bill Owens (D)
; Running for re-election
Updated Oct. 14, 2010
Could it happen again?
That's the question circulating among frustrated Republicans who saw this conservative upstate district fall into Democratic hands for the first time in more than a century last fall. That's when Owens benefited from a divided Republican electorate, beating the moderate and tea-party-backed candidates in a three-way race with just 48 percent of the vote.
To the delight of Democrats, this year's ballot will feature three candidates as well. The Republican is the wealthy investment banker Matt Doheny, who eked out a primary victory against last fall's tea-party darling, Doug Hoffman. But Hoffman is again refusing to go away quietly.
After conceding defeat in the primary, he vowed to fight for victory on the Conservative Party line.
Learning from last year's debacle, the local tea party movement is likely to support Doheny. The key question is how much support does Hoffman need to play spoiler again.
Republicans concede it could be as little as 10 percent or 15 percent, which should be well within the reach of this aggressive campaigner. And as the right struggles with itself, Owens has been whacking away at Doheny, tying the businessman to a company that laid off employees while giving bonuses to executives.
The wildcard here is Doheny's wallet. He loaned himself more than $500,000 to win the primary.
District Profile from Politics in America
The vast 23rd covers more than one-fourth of the state, bordering Lake Champlain, the St. Lawrence Seaway and Lake Ontario. The waterways provide an inexpensive source of electricity, which has lured some heavy industry to the district. But most of the district is rural, full of small towns, dairy farms, maple syrup producers and colleges. It reaches south to Oneida Lake and Madison County.
Fort Drum (near Watertown, the district's largest city) is one of the largest and most modern Army facilities on the East Coast. It thus far has been safe from post-Cold War base closures, and consists of 107,000 acres and trains almost 80,000 troops annually. Roughly 30 miles from Ontario, Watertown's economy relies on Canadian visitors. The proximity to waterways and forests made paper production a major industry in the district, but many mills have been forced to close their doors.
Unemployment remains a problem throughout the 23rd, as harsh winters and high transportation costs make attracting jobs difficult. A GM plant in Massena in St. Lawrence County closed in 2009, and the sprawling factory will be demolished. State correctional facilities are an economic driver in the 23rd, but ongoing state budget shortfalls will force closures. Bright spots include seasonal tourism -- the 23rd covers much of the Adirondack Mountains, where winter weather caters to snowmobile riders and ice fishers, and long summers attract visitors to regional festivals and seasonal-use cottages.
The northeastern corner of the state had sent Republicans to the U.S. House since the 1872 election until 2009. Despite Republicans holding a voter registration edge in the district, Barack Obama won 52 percent of the 23rd's 2008 presidential vote. Opponent John McCain received his highest percentage in any county statewide in sparsely populated Hamilton (63 percent).
Agriculture, tourism, defense
Fort Drum, 18,023 military, 4,768 civilian (2011)
Watertown, 27,023; Plattsburgh, 19,989; Oswego, 18,142
Little Trees air fresheners were invented in Watertown, home to the headquarters and a manufacturing plant of Car-Freshner Corp.
District Election History
||Bill Owens (D)
|Matt Doheny (R)
|Doug Hoffman (C)
||John McHugh (R, INDC, C)
|Michael Oot (D, WFM)
||John McHugh (R, INDC, C)
|Robert Johnson (D, WFM)
||John McHugh (R, C, INDC, WFM)
|Robert Johnson (D)
||John McHugh (R, C)
Vote For President
||Barack Obama: 52%
||John McCain: 47%
||John Kerry: 47%
||George W. Bush: 51%
||Al Gore: 47%
||George W. Bush: 49%