Rep. Bill Owens (D-N.Y.) will retire


FILE: Rep. Bill Owens, shown in this file photo delivering a victory speech in 2009. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

Rep. Bill Owens (D-N.Y.) will retire after the current term, he announced Tuesday, becoming the latest in a string of swing district Democrats to opt against a reelection campaign.

"It is time for me to undertake new endeavors and spend more time with my family," Owens said in a statement. "Even though I will not seek re-election, it is my goal that the next phase of my life will continue to focus on helping to improve the lives of all New Yorkers, primarily through job creation and economic development."

Owens was first elected in a 2009 special election. He represents an upstate New York district where President Obama won about 52 percent of the vote in both 2008 and 2012. Even before Owens's announcement, Republicans intended to compete seriously for the seat. Former Bush administration aide Elise Stefanik (R) announced her campaign last summer.

Owens's announcement follows decisions by other Democrats from competitive districts to pass on pursuing another term. Reps. Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.) and Jim Matheson (D-Utah) recently announced their plans to retire.

Democrats vowed to compete for the seat even in Owens's absence.

"While Republicans are already fighting a bitter and divisive primary, I have no doubt that another commonsense Democrat will fill his shoes in this competitive district that Democrats have held for the past three elections," said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.).

Republicans said it was another sign that vulnerable Democrats being forced out because of the new health-care law.

"Owens’s retirement is a massive blow to Democrats’ ever-dwindling hopes for the 2014 election," said National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden (Ore.).

Owens had come under scrutiny from the House Ethics Committee, which found that he accepted "improper" travel expenses for a trip to Taiwan because his trip was planned in part by a lobbying firm tied to the Taiwanese government. 

Owens in the fifth Democrat and 14th House member overall to announce he won't run for reelection this year.

Updated at 12:42 p.m.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.

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