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Owens says successor must be moderate during Potsdam visit

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POTSDAM — U.S. Rep. William L. Owens said he won’t throw his support behind any one person for his seat in the House of Representatives until all of the candidates have come forward.

Mr. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, met with the press Thursday at a meeting in Potsdam, where topics ranged from the farm bill to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address to Mr. Owens’s pending retirement at the end of his term.

Mr. Owens was visiting St. Lawrence County to meet with representatives of the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center, Ogdensburg, as well as organizations in Potsdam.

He also responded to rumors that Deputy Secretary of State Dierdre K. Scozzafava is considering a run for his seat.

“I think she’d be an excellent candidate,” he said, cautioning that Ms. Scozzafava, a Republican, has not confirmed her interest.

“I’m flattered. I think an awful lot of the congressman, so I’m flattered he would say that,” Ms. Scozzafava said, although she would not comment on whether she is considering a campaign.

Mr. Owens said his own election in 2009 as the district’s first Democrat in recent memory was seen as a surprise at the time, and he expects a repeat performance from someone else.

“There’s another pleasant surprise out there,” he said.

It will take a moderate to win the 21st Congressional District, which contains a diverse mix of Republicans, Democrats and independents, he said.

“Whoever is chosen has to be, in my view, someone who is moderate and centrist in their approach,” he said.

As the conversation turned to the House-passed farm bill, which would include a new margin insurance program for dairy farmers, Mr. Owens said he was glad to see the passage of the oft-stalled legislation.

“This was a major breakthrough, even though it was majorly delayed,” he said. “This is one of the most frustrating processes I’ve ever been through.”

He also spoke in favor of Mr. Obama’s proposed minimum wage increase to $10.10 per hour.

“The people who are making $10 an hour are spending those dollars,” he said. “I think overall it has a positive effect.”

Mr. Owens said he wants to spend his last year in Congress focused on passing an immigration bill and helping to create jobs in the north country. Given that this is an election year, however, Congress is unlikely to accomplish much of note, he said.

“I think that’s going to be a tough row to hoe,” he said.

He said hopes to spend the year working with businesses and constituents in the district, beyond trying to get legislation passed in Washington.

“It’s a little different feel, no doubt about it,” he said of his coming retirement. “One of the things it allows you to do is focus on the job instead of thinking about re-election, which is a good feeling.”

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