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EDITORIAL: Moderate voices needed to join campaign for 21st Congressional District

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Today’s announcement that U.S. Rep. William L. Owens, D-21st District, of Plattsburgh will not seek re-election this year is the most surprising news of the 2014 campaign season.

“After careful thought and consideration, I have decided not to seek re-election for the 21st Congressional District this November. I have enjoyed the opportunity to travel the district, meeting and serving the families and business owners of this vast community. It has truly been a privilege to serve, and I plan on continuing to work for a brighter future for the region,” Mr. Owens said in a statement. “It is time for me to undertake new endeavors and spend more time with my family. 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. Thank you for letting me serve you since November 2009.”

Mr. Owens came to office in a special election held in the fall of 2009. U.S. Rep. John M. McHugh, R-23rd District, of Watertown resigned his office that year to become secretary of the U.S. Army where he still ably serves.

The election was supposed to be between Mr. Owens as the Democratic candidate, state Assemblywoman Dierdre K. Scozzafava, R-122nd District, of Gouverneur as the Republican candidate and Douglas L. Hoffman of Saranac Lake as the Conservative Party candidate. But Ms. Scozzafava dropped out of the race the weekend prior to the Nov. 3 election after the campaign grabbed national headlines away from competency to extremism. Members of the tea party, a political movement that had organized early in 2009, were determined to thwart President Barack Obama’s legislative goals, particularly on health care reform.

Ms. Scozzafava was a moderate Republican, and the tea party attempted to disembowel her. This page had originally endorsed Ms. Scozzafava for the House seat, but we switched our endorsement to Mr. Owens once his only challenger became Mr. Hoffman.

Mr. Owens has served honorably in the U.S. House of Representatives, and we commend him on his dedication to public service. We wish him the best in his future endeavors.

Looking forward, what the north country needs are more centrist voices to jump into this race. Be they the shrill voices determined to oppose everything about the Affordable Care Act or those committed to blocking any talk of fracking in New York state, we cannot have the extremists of any political movement serving as a House representative. We need middle-of-the-road politicians who recognize good government is based upon compromise, not unrelenting knee-jerk reactions from the left or right.

The work that needs to be done in Washington will never advance if our legislative branch is dominated by extremists. Moderate voices with reasonable ideas must become involved in this race and offer a true choice. The voters deserve this and common sense demands it.

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