UPDATE: Is Bill Owens vulnerable? National press isn’t sure.

The last couple of election cycles, New York’s 23rd congressional district — now redistricted as the 21st — has drawn a maelstrom of national attention, due in part to Doug Hoffman’s Conservative campaigns.

This year’s rematch between Democratic Congressman Bill Owens from Plattsburgh and Republican challenger Matt Doheny promises to be extremely competitive, but so far there’s not a ton of interest outside the North Country.

The Republican National Congressional Committee has added Doheny to its “Young Guns” line-up of hopeful candidates, a sign that the GOP sees this as a marquis match-up.

For the most part, the Beltway press corps isn’t so enthusiastic.  The non-partisan journal The Hill scores this one as “leaning” Democratic.

Real Clear Politics does not include NY-21 in the list of 25 House seats “most likely to switch party.”

Politico, on the other hand, included Owens on a list of members of the House Armed Services Committee who appear vulnerable in November.

The Air Force veteran, who’s running in a redrawn district, has been weighed down by a scandal over his December visit to Taiwan.

Owens recently reimbursed the government $22,132 after ProPublica and POLITICO reported that he and his wife had stayed at luxury hotels on the four-day trip, which is believed to have been arranged by lobbyists — a possible violation of ethics laws.

Owens’s challenger, Republican banking manager and former House candidate Matt Doheny, has been identified as a rising star through the National Republican Congressional Committee’s Young Guns program. Doheny has seized on the ethics issue, accusing his opponent of being too cozy with lobbyists.

The race is a rematch of their 2010 faceoff, which Owens won by only a few thousand votes.

And then there’s the Cook Political report, which also concluded that the race currently “leans Democratic.”  The site requires a subscription, so I can’t link to it.

But a Democratic operative sent me part of Cook’s analysis, which referenced Doheny’s “blowup” with Gawker.com, which webcast video of the Republican “at a DC bar smooching a political consultant who was not his fiance.”

Doheny denied that there was anything untoward going on in the video, but at this point he may be too damaged to be one of the GOP’s top challenger prospects. This race will still be somewhat competitive thanks to Doheny’s spending capability, but after surviving 2009 and 2010 in unusual fashion, Owens still looks like one of the luckiest Democrats in the House.

Meanwhile, a Republican operative sent me links to two other sites, Roll Call and Rothenberg, which give Doheny more of a shot, with Rothenberg calling the race “a pure toss-up” and Roll Call concluding that this “is going to be a tough seat for Democrats to keep.”

We’ll know more about this race in the next month, when polls start to give a better indicator of where things stand.  meanwhile, what’s your sense?  Is Owens vulnerable?  Has Doheny made his case?

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16 Responses to “UPDATE: Is Bill Owens vulnerable? National press isn’t sure.”

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  1. Bob S says:

    Owens voted to hold fellow democrat Holder in contempt of Congress. That vote was either a good faith expression of his honest opinion that Holder has been lying to Congress or that Owens is worried about his future employment.

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  2. hermit thrush says:

    at this point how could owens not be considered vulnerable? though i guess all of this is kind of idle banter without any actual polling in the mix.

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  3. TomL says:

    Owens is vulnerable, and Doheny has not made his case. Really, the race is a blip on the local political radar – few NY-21 constituents are probably even aware of the race at this point. It won’t get interesting until early September.

    If I were to handicap it, I think it is a likely hold for Owens. He is a good fit for the region, and has decent constituent services. Doheny has no record politically or as a professional in the region. There will be no Romney coattails in the district (or Obama coattails, for that matter). I think that the incumbent advantage will benefit Owens enough to be elected – though it will be close.

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  4. Pete Klein says:

    I am sick of hearing about “young guns” and “rising star” and all the other meaningless phrases of trite journalism.
    And the Taiwan thing does rise to the level of a “scandal.
    I know one thing for certain. I will not vote for any Republican beyond the town or county level until they all tell the Tea Party to get lost.

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  5. Pete Klein says:

    Forgot to put “not” in front of rise.

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  6. tootightmike says:

    Doheny likes to paint himself as a political outsider, but he is a smooth talking politician through and through. From one side of his mouth comes the brag that he’s a local boy, and a self made millionaire, From the other side, he talks about keeping taxes low for the little guys (like him). He wants to curtail government spending, but promote military expansion, as though these were unrelated topics. He wants to put power back into the hands of the people, but apparently not all people…especially not those organized people who form unions, and not those poor, or needy, or sick people.

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  7. erb says:

    Ah, the old “smoothing a political consultant.” Because most candidates are pretty slippery.

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  8. the howardchronicles says:

    Bill Owens is not vulnerable in the upcoming election for Congress 23rd district. In the entire history of north country politics which I have been around for most of, no incumbent has ever been defeated whom the populace deemed had been doing a good job and Bill has done a good job.
    As soon as he opens an office in Watertown I want some signs. I live on the main drag and everybody will see it.

    All of the above being said, Doheny has become quite a spectacle with a grand island home and an over the top marriage with all the trimmings, none the less it all translates into little about decision making that would make for a U.S. congressman.

    I would like to see a debate, maybe a few, it is a grand opportunity to hear about what is on their minds before the election. Kellie Greene could not get Doheny to debate although I heard that he would have debated up in Wanakena with out the news media.

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  9. Walker says:

    “…at a DC bar smoothing a political consultant who was not his fiance.”

    I think that’s “smooching,” not “smoothing.” At least that’s what the photos I saw looked like.

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  10. Walker says:

    For those who missed it, here’s a link on the NY Post coverage of the “smooch” plus a video demonstrating what a hands-on kind of guy he is.

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  11. mervel says:

    Is he married now? I mean he was “engaged” when that video was taken so it would calculate that now he would be married if it was an actual engagement.

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  12. mervel says:

    I don’t it just does not bother me that much, the guy was not married, it looks like a typical bar scene. I mean I don’t think much of it, but I think it is reaching with the engaged stuff.

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  13. Walker says:

    It speaks to character. And judgement. As do the two boating while impaired arrests, and the belligerence.

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  14. mervel says:

    I agree with the judgement issues surrounding the impaired arrests, I mean one ok, but two??? I am not saying I like it, grown men running for office over the age of 25 should not be running around in bars trying to pick up women, its a moral failure no doubt about it. I think it is pretty normal for D.C. though from my understanding particularly among the single congressmen, it is one big party.

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  15. mervel says:

    Owens is fine. I don’t remember the last time a Republican in the north country beat a democratic incumbent? I think the days of Republicans are pretty well done in the North Country.

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  16. TomL says:

    Mervel, before Bill Owens was elected, the last US Representative from the Democratic Party in the district was about 1856 (depends on which part, since the boundaries have changed). So it isn’t too surprising that you don’t remember when a Republican beat a Democrat in the Congressional District. The last time it was represented by a Democrat, there was no Republican Party in the region. That is an amazing factoid.

    As for the North Country as a whole, Scott Murphy (D) lost to Chris Gibson (R) in 2010.

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