U.S. Rep. William L. Owens has won a third term in Congress, defeating Republican Matthew A. Doheny, 50 to 48 percent, according to unofficial results Tuesday night.
At a campaign rally in Plattsburgh after all precincts had reported, Mr. Owens, a Plattsburgh Democrat, told raucous partygoers he would continue to fight for his constituents.
“It’s an honor to represent each of you in Congress,” Mr. Owens said.
Mr. Doheny, speaking to supporters at his election-night rally at the Italian-American Civic Association on Bellew Avenue, said he was leaving politics.
“I truly gave everything we had,” the Watertown resident said. “There’s nothing more we could have done.”
For Mr. Doheny, it was a loss at the ballot box and also a stunning personal defeat for a man accustomed to success. Winning a seat in Congress had been a nearly lifelong goal for Mr. Doheny when he was growing up on High Street in Alexandria Bay.
He had several built-in advantages: Outside groups far outspent Mr. Owens’s campaign on Mr. Doheny’s behalf, and Republicans far outnumbered Democrats in the district. But the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Owens campaign waged a relentless battle with soldiers marching to a singular drumbeat: Mr. Doheny is not of the north country. It was a particularly stinging accusation against a man friends said never fit in in New York City, where he made millions working for Wall Street firms in the 2000s.
In the end, his success became a liability, with Democrats labeling him “millionaire Matt Doheny.” He invested $3 million of his own money in his two congressional campaigns, in 2010 and 2012. He also flirted with running in 2009.
Donald L. Hassig, the Green Party candidate, received just shy of 2 percent of the vote.
There are still about 20,000 absentee ballots to be counted, but Mr. Doheny would have to win upward of 60 percent of those ballots, and he acknowledged that such an outcome was unlikely.
Mr. Owens thanked staff members and organized labor, which he said did a “tremendous job” in the heavily Republican district.
Mr. Owens continues to be an unlikely representative in a seat that was dominated by Republicans for generations. He has worked to maintain an independent, moderate image, and even after the results were tallied, he continued to do so in his victory speech.
“I hope (the election) causes us to come to rational compromise,” Mr. Owens said in his victory speech, which was broadcast on WWNY-TV.
He will be sworn in for a third time in January, but before that happens, Congress has much to do, including measures to stave off steep defense cuts and a tax increase on the middle class. With President Barack Obama’s victory, the lame-duck session will likely be more productive than it would have been if Republican Mitt Romney had won. Mr. Owens said he’d continue working for the middle class when Washington gets back to work.
Mr. Owens’s victory was buoyed by a strong showing in St. Lawrence County. He also kept it close in Jefferson and Lewis counties.
According to unofficial results, Mr. Doheny won Jefferson County 51 percent to 48 percent, with nearly all precincts reporting. Mr. Doheny also won Lewis County 52 percent to 47 percent. But Mr. Owens far eclipsed those margins in St. Lawrence County, winning 58 percent to 41 percent. Mr. Doheny trailed by 4,713 districtwide on election night. Mr. Owens defeated Mr. Doheny by 5,738 votes in St. Lawrence County.
On Tuesday night, Mr. Doheny said he will not run for elected office again, but left his event before speaking to reporters. Donald G.M. Coon III, the Jefferson County Republican Party chairman, said Mr. Doheny was right to concede the race, calling him a “gentleman.”
“We all knew it was going to be close,” Mr. Coon said. “It just didn’t trend our way.”