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The Saratogian Newsroom blog, complete with thoughts and commentary from our newsroom staff and regular posts on happenings around town.

Thursday, March 20

Bill Owens' big surprise

When Bill Owens announced he was not going to run for reelection for the 21st Congressional District, he didn't consult anyone about it in the party.

"Just my family," he said Wednesday on a stop in Saratoga Springs.

Saratoga County Democratic Chairman Todd Kerner said he and the other chairs in the district he has spoken to found out the day that Owens announced his retirement from Congress publicly.

"I think there is was a great deal of disappointment that it was so last minute," Kerner said. "Normally an incumbent will be respectful of the process and the party that supported them and will give (the party) more time."

Kerner said he believes they found an "exceptional candidate" in a short time with documentary filmmaker Aaron Woolf, though he thinks Woolf was "behind the 8-ball" in terms of building a campaign machine for his run.

There was a perception in the campaign (perhaps helped by some prodding by the other side) that Woolf got off to a slow start. But then he wasn't endorsed until February 12 — four weeks after Owens announced he wouldn't seek reelection.

"I think by November everyone will know about him and will be impressed," Kerner said.

In terms of Woolf being a political unknown Owens said "That's what they said about me 4-1/2 years ago. I think there is another pleasant surprise (in Woolf)."

As I put in a previous post, the demographics of the district are somewhat lopsided in favor of the conservative candidates, though Kerner said he doesn't believe that is as significant in the 21st District as it is elsewhere.

"I think the voters in the 21st are unique. They are very independent. They don't look at the labels, they look at the person," he said.

Still, it certainly seemed to make a difference before Owens took office. 

Owens said it is too early to decide whether he will make any endorsements for the race.

"There are a lot of people in it," Owens said, and debates in possible three of the parties — Republicans, Democrats and Green Party. "We'll have to see how it shakes out."

"I hope we have some good debate," he said. Owens said he hopes whoever wins the district pays attention to the electorate as a whole, not just their side of the aisle.

"The person needs to be willing to vote with the other side on some things," he said. "I talked about being a moderate and I think my voting record reflects that is what I was."

As for his life after Congress, Owens said he doesn't know what is in store yet.

"I have not reached a conclusion about what I want to do and what I'm going to be wanted to do," he said with a laugh.

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