Owen was born and raised in Tacoma, Washington. He was a small business owner before entering politics. He was elected as Shelton City Finance Commissioner and to the Washington House of Representatives in 1976 and served in those capacities until 1983, when he was elected to the Washington State Senate. In 1989, he formed a non-profit organization called Strategies for Youth, first as a way to fight substance abuse among Washington's young people and later with a greater emphasis on bullying and respecting diversity. The program concluded in 2011.
Owen in 2000
In 1996, Owen moved from the legislature to the executive branch with his election as lieutenant governor. He was re-elected to that position in 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012. Following findings by the state's Executive Ethics Commission that Owen improperly used tax-payer resources, which led to a $15,000 fine being imposed against him, Owen announced that he would not seek another term in the 2016 election. Prior to that announcement, three current legislators from his own party had already begun campaigning for his office. His final term expired in January 2017. He was succeeded in office by Cyrus Habib.
Owen is opposed to abortion, he campaigns against drug use and drug legalisation and he is described as "lukewarm" on gay rights. He has received criticism for his work ethic, not working outside of the legislative calendar, working from home and prioritising his outside business interests ahead of his duties as Lieutenant Governor. In September 2014 he was fined $15,000 for breaking state law by using state resources to run Strategies for Youth, his personal non-profit group.