September 8, 2009

Vice president to raise funds for Owens

Vice president will attend fundraiser for congressional candidate


PLATTSBURGH — Congressional candidate William Owens's campaign will get a boost from Vice President Joe Biden today.

Biden is expected to attend a fundraiser for Owens at the Syracuse law firm of Bond, Shoeneck and King.

The vice president's attendance at the fundraiser is an indication to many that the White House has strong interest in the race for the 23rd Congressional District.

"The big thing Joe Biden can do is give some national stature and also some cash," said Lee M. Miringhoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion.

"It's usually a good media day, and they hope that will create some cash for the campaign."

Democrats have not won the seat since the Civil War era, but many feel this special election could be their chance to finally win.

The seat will become open when incumbent Republican Congressman John McHugh is confirmed as the next secretary of the Army, which is expected to happen in the coming weeks.

McHugh was selected by President Barack Obama for the top Army post on June 2.

Since then, Republicans have chosen St. Lawrence County Assemblywoman Dierdre "Dede" Scozzafava as their candidate.

Democrats have countered with Owens, a Plattsburgh attorney with the law firm of Stafford, Owens, Pillar, Murnane & Trombley, PLLC.

Douglas Hoffman, an accountant from Lake Placid, is running on the Conservative Party line. Hoffman had initially sought the Republican nod, along with seven other candidates.

Miringhoff said Democrats might finally have a better chance in this special election, but there are still no guarantees.

"The best way to win a seat is to have an open seat, and that's what you have here.

"But candidates win on their own. An event like this with Joe Biden can create some interest, but it doesn't really translate into points."

Scozzafava's camp tied Owens to the White House's controversial health-care-reform plan.

"Vice President Biden and Bill Owens's fat-cat, lawyer fundraising pals all know where Owens stands on the Obama/Pelosi health-care plan. The only people who don't know are the hard-working families of the 23rd Congressional District," Scozzafava spokesman Matthew Burns said Tuesday.

"It's time Bill Owens explains why he won't rule out taxing health-care benefits and whether he supports Washington Democrats' plan to cut Medicare for our seniors."

Hoffman's campaign also blasted the Owens fundraiser, throwing in Scozzafava.

"I'm surprised he (Biden) isn't doing one for Dede Scozzafava, considering they both ran on the Working Families Party line last fall," Hoffman campaign spokesman Rob Ryan said.

"It must have been hard deciding who is more liberal: Dede Scozzafava or Bill Owens."

Owens's campaign declined to comment, citing security concerns for the vice president's travel schedule.

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