Owens Wins Working Families Party Support in N.Y. Special

Posted October 8, 2009 at 6:02pm

Attorney Bill Owens (D) has scored the endorsement of the labor-backed Working Families Party in the race to succeed former Rep. John McHugh (R) in upstate New York.

The nod means Owens will be running on the WFP line as well as the Democratic Party line in the Nov. 3 special election.

The endorsement could be a win-win for Owens and Republican rival Dede Scozzafava.

It will be provide a boost for Owens, particularly from an organizational standpoint. And the get-out-the vote operations that labor excels in will be important in a low-turnout special election.

For Scozzafava, not getting the WFP nod — and thereby distancing her from what tends to be a major Democratic constituency — also could be a benefit. Scozzafava has been battered by conservatives for her moderate record in the New York Assembly and for her past endorsements by the more liberal WFP.

Owens also got a big endorsements from the 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East last month.

Scozzafava did not seek the party’s endorsement. She is already running on the Republican and state Independence Party lines.

She has, however, rounded up a series of other labor endorsements in the past few days, including the Region 9 United Auto Workers; Plattsburgh-Saranac Lake Building and Construction Trades Council; and Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence Central Trades and Labor Council.

Scozzafava’s husband, Ron McDougall, is active in the upstate labor movement and Scozzafava has had a friendly relationship with labor during her decade in the Assembly.

Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman is also vying for the seat, but is not expected to win labor backing.

Meanwhile, Owens also got a boost Thursday from former President Bill Clinton, who called the race to succeed McHugh “bigger than just one candidate or one office— in an e-mail to Democratic supporters.

“Victory or defeat will also be seen as a referendum on President Obama’s agenda for health care and on our entire progressive agenda,— Clinton wrote in a message circulated by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He asked party backers to donate to Owens, writing “Bill needs to raise $83,000 before Friday to stay on the air— with television ads.

Clinton’s message comes a day after Democrats announced President Barack Obama would host an event for Owens when he is in New York City for a Democratic National Committee fundraiser Oct 20.

Party officials see an opportunity to flip the seat, which was vacated by McHugh last month when he was confirmed as secretary of the Army.