Up next in the retirement conga line is Rep. Bill Owens, an endangered House Democrat from upstate New York. Owens won a wild special election in 2009, voted for Obamacare the next year, and has been clinging to his job ever since, even as his district has shifted. Barack Obama narrowly won his current district in 2012, but with this runaway train hurtling down the tracks, Owens has decided to take a pass on a bruising re-election campaign:
Democratic Rep. Bill Owens of New York will not run for reelection in November, he announced Tuesday — dealing another blow to the party’s prospects of winning control of the House. In the past two months, three Democrats — Owens, Utah Rep. Jim Matheson, and North Carolina Rep. Mike McIntyre — have announced their retirements from seats that could swing to Republicans. The GOP is trying to protect a 17-seat advantage in the House. Four Republicans — Pennsylvania Rep. Jim Gerlach, Iowa Rep. Tom Latham, Virginia Rep. Frank Wolf, and New Jersey Rep. Jon Runyan — are retiring from seats that Democrats are aggressively competing for.
Of the four retiring Republicans mentioned, only Latham and Runyan were considered marginally endangered in 2014. Each secured re-election by a margin in the high single digits in 2012, which was a strong year across the board for Democrats. All three Democrats (Matheson, McIntyre and Owens) barely scratched by in a favorable cycle. It seems clear that they don't expect 2014 to be nearly as forgiving. While Obamacare was most assuredly a factor in Owens' decision-making process, there are additional issues at play. For instance:
In November, House ethics panel said Rep. Owens (D-N.Y.) accepted ‘improper’ travel expenses http://t.co/eq0DcIK1Jf— Aaron Blake (@AaronBlakeWP) January 14, 2014
Owens may have contemplated the prospect of trudging head-on into gale-force political headwinds with the added baggage of an ethics issue hanging over his head and thought, "no thanks." The fact that he was poised to face an energetic, sharp, well-funded, young, female GOP challenger probably made the final call even easier. She has pounced on Owens' retirement announcement to galvanize additional support:
Parting thoughts: (1) Why are so many political forecasters anticipating that the GOP will retain the House of Representatives this fall, if not make gains? Map math:
Rep. Bill Owens was 20th most moderate House Dem in 2012 (per NJ). He is 12th of the 20 to either retire or lose.— Aaron Blake (@AaronBlakeWP) January 14, 2014