NEW YORK STATE -- Congressman Bill Owens says there are no scandals, no health issues, no political fears.
His surprise decision to retire at the end of this year, he insists, simply came down to wanting to be closer to home
It's time for me to spend more time with my family, and that was really the critical decision maker for me," said Rep. Bill Owens, Plattsburgh.
The North Country congressman says he started thinking about ending his congressional run a month and a half ago, and informed top Democrats of his decision about two weeks ago. Owens is the fifth Democrat to announce retirement this year
The news is not good for Democrats. Owens' district is considered competitive, and Democrats desperately want to hold onto it as they try to regain the majority.
The National Republican Congressional Committee didn't waste any time weighing in.
In a statement, they said: “Bill Owens would rather leave the House than lose an election. Make no mistake; Owens’s retirement is a massive blow to Democrats’ ever-dwindling hopes for the 2014 election."
"Given the three elections I've been through - I've been through very tough battles, I've prevailed each time. I expect I would have prevailed this time as well," Owens said.
Cook Political Report quickly moved the race to "toss up."
And other political observers, citing the district's Republican enrollment advantage, think Democrats need to be worried.
"Bill Owens' announcement is a big loss because it takes a seat that he probably could have held to one that is going to be very difficult for the party to hold in November," said Nathan Gonzales, Rothenberg Political Report.
Owens says he has not talked with any potential Democratic successors.
But he thinks the party still has a good shot, "This is a district made up of Rockefeller Republicans and Reagan Democrats, and they will look to the person and that person's attributes when making a decision, not strictly along party lines."
Democrats need to make a decision soon. Petitioning begins in about two months.