By JOE LoTEMPLIO
---- — PLATTSBURGH — By the narrowest of margins, it appears that Democrat Bill Owens will be returning to Congress.
With 93 percent of the vote in Tuesday night, Owens had a lead of 108,464 to 104,403 over Republican challenger Matt Doheny.
Doheny called Owens to concede the race shortly after midnight.
“It is an honor to represent each and everyone of you, and I will continue to do that,” Owens told a crowd of his supporters at American Legion Post 20 in Plattsburgh late Tuesday.
“I will continue to work to bring the middle class up because that is what will bring the country forward.”
Owens, who beat Doheny in another close race in 2010, worked to overcome a significant advantage Republicans had in voter registration in the 12-county district.
Although he leads the vote count, about 16,000 absentee ballots remain to be counted, which will happen on Nov. 25.
Green Party candidate Donald Hassig of St. Lawrence County had just 1.6 percent of the vote.
‘A LOT OF RESOURCES’
Owens, who was first elected in 2009, said he hopes Congress will be able to reach more compromises in the next term.
“I hope this causes us to come to rational compromise,” he said. “We need intelligent analysis of issues and then rational compromise. I will bring that approach back to Congress.”
Doheny thanked his supporters at his headquarters in Watertown after calling Owens.
“We came up short. It’s that simple,” he said.
The race was hard fought, with more than $1 million spent on both campaigns.
“I can tell you that it wasn’t the lack of effort,” Doheny said. “We worked at this for quite some time. We spent a lot of resources, not only my campaign and myself personally, but certainly the national party and Super PACs.”
Doheny said he worked seven days a week, sometimes for 16 or 17 hours a day, and traveled more than 100,000 miles.
“Sometimes, I’ve learned in politics, things don’t go your way,” he said.
Owens won Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties comfortably, helping him secure the victory.
Clinton County Democratic Party Chairman Martin Mannix said Owens won because he has conducted himself well in the three years he has been in office.
“People see in Bill Owens the class and ability they want in a congressman,” he said. “He is what a congressman should look like and talk like. The other side just did a lot of attacks with a lot of money, and I think people recognized that.”
Mannix said he felt Owens was able to win the race despite facing the disadvantage of about 32,000 voters in voter registration in the new part of the 21st District, which includes Warren and Washington counties and part of Saratoga County, because they felt more comfortable with Owens.
“That part of the district is a well-educated electorate, and even though they may be registered Republican, it doesn’t mean they always vote that way, and they have crossed lines before,” he said.
— Brian Amaral of the Watertown Daily Times contributed to this article.