November 04, 2009

Owens wins closely watched race

Source: NYSUT News Wire
Caption: Bill Owens, third from left, stands with the NYSUT volunteers who helped elect him. From left, Rebecca Kasper, UUP Plattsburgh; Patty Bentley, UUP Plattsburgh and a NYSUT Board member, Owens, Michele Bushey, Saranac Teachers Association; Tricia Sardella and Nancy Hoskins of the Peru Association of Teachers, and Rod Sherman, Plattsburgh TA and a NYSUT Board member.

In a dramatic conclusion to a race that garnered national attention, Plattsburgh attorney Bill Owens won the 23rd Congressional District seat over Doug Hoffman, the Conservative party candidate. NYSUT extended an 11th-hour endorsement - along with its impressive get-out-the-vote operation - to Owens after Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava, R-Gouverneur, suspended her campaign.

"As Dede released her supporters Saturday and then ultimately backed the Democrat, Bill Owens, the union was able to turn on a dime and marshall its troops in support of Owens," said NYSUT Executive Vice President Alan Lubin.

The union's endorsement may have made the difference as polls released shortly before the election showed Owens trailing by as much as 5 points.

"It was an interesting feeling to start with phone calls endorsing Dede and end with phone bank calls endorsing Bill Owens," said Michele Bushey, a NYSUT political action coordinator and member of the Saranac Teachers Association. Bushey noted that PAC members worked tirelessly to inform union members in the district of NYSUT's endorsement for the pro-labor, pro-public education Owens. In addition to making hundreds of calls, members also joined the AFL-CIO in making face-to-face contact with voters on last-minute walks throughout the district.

"We have a lot of great people in the North Country. During times like this when we need them to take action, they do; they always step up to the plate."

With more than 90 percent of precincts reporting, Owens had a 6,000-vote lead when Hoffman conceded the race just after midnight.

Owens will be the first Democrat to represent the heavily Republican district in more than 100 years. The seat was vacated by longtime U.S. Rep. John McHugh, R-Watertown, who was named U.S. Army Secretary.