Chris Collins

Collins: Don’t Read Into Missed Vote For Slaughter Post Office

Earlier this week, members of Congress voted overwhelmingly to name a post office after the late-Congresswoman Louise Slaughter and her husband Bob Slaughter.

The Democrat served three decades in the House and died early last year while still in office. Only seven Republicans voted against the measure.

However, Congressman Chris Collins, who represents the neighboring New York district, did not vote. The two members were also very critical of each other, with Slaughter leading calls for investigations into the Republicans stock dealings.

Collins is currently facing federal charges related to insider trading.

“Louise and I were not exactly on the best of term,” he said.

But the congressman said he did not actively avoid the vote. Collins said he didn’t know it was happening and had a conflict that afternoon so he couldn’t be on the floor.

“We haven’t been voting on substantive issues,” he said. “So I had a conflict and it turns out it was the post office. It was supposed to be another one that didn’t occur but I wouldn’t read into anything other.”

In fact, Collins said he thought Congress had already passed legislation to rename the post office last year. He said he is still not sure how he would have voted.

“I would not have voted no,” he said. “Whether I would have voted present or not, I’m not sure.”

Rep. Collins Still Debating 2020 Reelection Bid

Western New York Republican Chris Collins, facing federal insider trading charges, very narrowly won his congressional reelection bid, last fall.
When all the votes were tallied, Collins ended up beating his Democratic challenger, Nate McMurray, by less than half a percentage point in the mid-term race. McMurray has continued to be active on social media and in the community and has maintained the appearance of someone who plans on challenging the congressman again.

He half-confirmed his intentions Friday on Twitter, tweeting that if Collins runs again, he will too.

The Republican incumbent has not confirmed he will run for what would be his 5th term. Friday, he made it sound like the decision is still very much up in the air.

“I’m debating that,” he said. “We’ll debate within my family and you know, I’ve been there eight years and so that will be a decision for early next year, one that I’m not locked in on right now.”

Collins does not believe the close result in 2018 would be a reason not to run. In fact, he pointed out he received more votes than any other Republican candidate in New York and more than some members of House GOP leadership.

He said he would expect the total to be even higher for a presidential election year in a district in which President Donald Trump remains popular.

“140,000 people, probably in the nastiest election that there’s ever been, said they wanted me to come back as their member, so I would say that I’m in a pretty good spot,” he said. “Clearly, anyone that voted for me last time’s gonna do it again.”

Collins said if he runs, McMurray would be his “dream candidate to run against.” He said the Democrat is a far-left candidate who has moved even further left since last year.

The congressman noted the status of his ongoing federal litigation will weigh into his ultimate decision.

Collins Reintroduces Legislation To Roll Back SAFE Act

From the Morning Memo:

While the New York State Legislature continues to tighten gun laws, Rep. Chris Collins, R-NY-27, is trying again to role back the state’s Secure Ammunition’s and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act Of 2013 at the federal level.

Collins reintroduced his Second Amendment Guarantee Act this week. SAGA would limit a state’s authority to regulate rifles and shotguns.

States would not be allowed to impose regulations more restrictive than those already imposed by Congress. The legislation, first introduced by Collins in July 2017, is in direct response to New York’s wide-reaching package of gun laws.

“Governor Cuomo unjustly took away the Second Amendment rights from law abiding New Yorkers with his so-called SAFE Act,” Collins said. “I have and always will be a  strong supporter of the Second Amendment and my legislation will guarantee that New Yorkers have the rights guaranteed to them in the Constitution.”

The congressman said in stipulating rifles and shotguns have (or don’t have) certain features the SAFE Act violates federal regulations. If passed, SAGA would void state laws in violation and allow courts to award plaintiffs damages from those states.

However, even with a Republican-controlled House, the bill stalled last session after being referred to a subcommittee. Collins faces more obstacles this year.

Democrats have since won back Congress. Even the lawmakers GOP colleagues could potentially be squeamish about passing a bill of which he’s the primary sponsor while he awaits trial on federal insider trading charges.

Collins Calls Higgins A Liar

Rep. Chris Collins, R-NY-27, has not been shy about talking about the double standard he believes the media has when reporting on him versus his Democratic colleagues, specifically fellow Congressman Brian Higgins.

Collins has argued Higgins didn not get the same criticism as him for not debating his opponent this past election. That’s perhaps a false equivalency considering Higgins race was not as competitive as Collins’ nor was his opponent as aggressive in calling for a debate.

But the Republican is now pointing to another instance where he believes his neighboring congressman got a pass. Last month, Higgins said he would support Nancy Pelosi for House Speaker, backtracking on his previous public position.
“I’d put it differently,” Collins said. “I would just say liar, liar, pants on fire and that’s how you should report it.”

Higgins said he was being pragmatic, with no viable option to replace the longtime Democratic leader. In exchange for his vote, he said Pelosi promised to bring two legislative priorities, an infrastructure bill and a Medicare buy-in plan, to the floor.

Collins called the so-called bargaining chip a “joke” because neither then Senate nor the president will support either plan.

“To say he’s now going to get a bill on the House floor that has zero chance of being passed mean he will have accomplished nothing other than he lied from Day One,” he said.

The congressman contrasted Higgins about-face, with downstate Democrat Kathleen Rice who maintained her opposition to Pelosi even as it became clear she had the requisite votes.

Rep. Collins: No Committee Assignment ‘Doesn’t Mean Much Now’

Congressman Chris Collins, R-NY-27, will not serve on the influential Energy and Commerce Committee when the new session starts next year.

House Speaker Paul Ryan stripped Collins of the committee assignment after federal prosecutors charged him with crimes related to insider trading. The congressman won reelection this fall but is still scheduled to stand trial in February 2020.

He had held out hope new Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, a friend of Collins, would allow him to return to Energy and Commerce. However, last month House Republicans voted to approve new rules barring members from facing federal charges from serving on committees.

In the past, Collins has said he hoped his work on the committee would be his legacy in Congress.

“While I would have preferred to stay on the committee, the fact that it’s now Republicans in the minority, it doesn’t mean much now,” he said Monday.

Collins said the legislation coming out of Energy and Commerce will be Democratic, regardless of whether he was participating in the process. He pointed out he still has his vote on the floor and will pay close attention to the bills coming from all 21 committees.

“Frankly, what I’m going to do is get more involved in the caucuses that I’m involved in and that I chair, especially relative to the Great Lakes, Energy Storage, the Toy Caucus with Mattel – there’s a lot of issues there with China – and certainly the Scout Caucus,” he said.

The congressman said he is still in good standing with his party and has actually gained significant seniority in the House thanks to turnover this year. Collins said he’s recruiting new members from the freshman class to join the bipartisan caucuses.

Hochul Calls For Patience In NY-27 Race

From the Morning Memo:

The campaign for Rep. Chris Collins has called his Democratic opponent Nate McMurray’s refusal to concede the NY-27 race a desperate and futile exercise.

In fact, it has repeatedly pointed to the 2012 election in which then-incumbent Democratic Rep. Kathy Hochul, facing a similar vote deficit to Collins, did concede without delay.

Now-LG Kathy Hochul, however, seemed to have no issue with McMurray’s decision to wait until every ballot is counted.

“We can be patient,” she said. “No one gets sworn in as the next Congress person until January and let this process play out. It’s only fair to all the people who took the effort and the time to stand in line, often times, to get the absentee ballot.”

Hochul endorsed McMurray and campaigned vigorously on his behalf. She was asked yesterday if she was disappointed voters may have elected Collins despite the fact he faces a federal insider trading trial in 2020.

“I’m not going to question why voters do what they do,” Hochul said. “It is certainly their prerogative and that is what’s so great about America.”

“I certainly am surprised because I think this district really deserves to have someone who’s not going to be spending most of their time defending allegations of a federal crime that was committed in a very public way, literally on the White House lawn.”

The lieutenant governor was referring to video and photos of Collins on the phone at roughly the same time, the indictment alleged, he learned of privileged information about an Australian pharmaceutical company for which he owned stock, and apparently sharing that information with his son. The congressman has repeatedly called the charges meritless and said he believes he will be exonerated.

Rep. Collins Believes Mueller Probe Almost Over

From the Morning Memo:

His Democratic opponent may not yet have conceded the election, but Republican Rep. Chris Collins is already preparing for his fourth term in Congress.

Aside from his ongoing federal insider trading case, Collins will face another new challenge come January. Democrats will control the House with the party’s total gains somewhere around 30 seats and potentially rising, and he’ll find himself in the minority – assuming his lead holds.

The shift in power, along with a change in attorney general this week, has sparked speculation about the future of the Robert Mueller special investigation into Russian collusion during the 2016 presidential election. Collins, however, believes Mueller is nearly done anyway, if he hasn’t already finished.

“I think it’s concluded,” he said. “My own guess is he did not want to impact the mid-term elections.”

The congressman does not believe his Republican colleagues will pressure Mueller to release his reports while they still have control of the House, nor does he think Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker should make that decision.

“I believe we will let Mueller make it on his own,” Collins said. “That’s what I would support, because I’m confident there is no, was no collusion. Let’s let this play out and I think all indicators are it will be done before the first of the year.”

As for what Democrats might do with the report, Collins said that’s up to them. He pointed out House Democratic leaders like Adam Schiff and Nancy Pelosi have already threatened new investigatory efforts.

But he warned if Dems overplay their hand, they risk losing their new members in 2020 and giving the president more ammunition for his own re-election campaign.

The Problem With Conceding Too Early And Other Thoughts On NY-27

After a taxing congressional campaign, Democrat Nate McMurray came out to chanting supporters Tuesday night and told them it looked like the campaign was going to come up a little bit short.

His staff cried. His family cried. The candidate fought back his own tears.

I, frankly, was a little bit surprised. The results, which came in sporadically throughout the night on the state Board of Elections website, particularly from Erie County, seemed to indicate incumbent Republican Chris Collins was winning but it was close.

The McMurray campaign told me they hoped they were wrong but were pretty confident the race was over. Several hours later, things changed, as McMurray called for a recount with absentee votes still yet to be tabulated and just a few thousand votes separating the two candidates.

One can’t help but wonder if they might have been better off sleeping on it before they conceded the election. McMurray contended it wasn’t technically a concession speech.

To further confuse matters, the Democrat tweeted a cryptic message Wednesday morning, leading reporters to question if he’d reconsidered again.

“I know a lot of you are feeling sadness,” he said. “Please know this: It will pass. Today hurts, because our efforts were so pure. Against all odds, we worked together like family. And we did so with joy. Be of good cheer. Losses are inevitable. But goodness is not. We will fight again!”

That tweet appeared to be deleted shortly afterward. Another post assured supporters the recount would happen and the race is “not over yet.”

Regardless, McMurray will have an uphill battle. The recanvassing, which the Erie County Board of Elections pointed out happens automatically for every election, has already begun with each of the eight individual counties in New York’s 27th Congressional District counting their own. Absentee ballots still need to be counted as well.

“When you have a margin of victory or a margin of lead of around 3,500 votes, it’s going to be very difficult to overcome that margin,” Republican Elections Commissioner Ralph Mohr said. “As we see historically, the absentee ballot count usually mirrors the machine votes.”

Collins, meanwhile, has claimed victory and the campaign said in a statement early Wednesday morning, nothing has changed from its perspective. The Republican defiantly criticized the media Tuesday night for not being “kind” to him throughout the campaign.

He continues to face federal charges related to insider trading, with a trial date scheduled for early 2020.

“I’m innocent until proven guilty even though the press convicted me, dismembered me and burned me at the stake,” Collins said.

The congressman said the campaign set a strategy that did not include the media. I found it honest but unusual to hear a candidate admit he actively avoided reporters during a hotly-contested campaign.

Collins did selectively do one-on-one interviews, including ones with the Buffalo News, WIVB-TV and WBEN radio. The campaign did not respond to numerous requests from our station for an interview over the last three months.

“We answer the media when they’re reasonable,” he said.

Collins said he didn’t see a problem with the strategy but it did allow him to carefully craft his message and put the reporters who interviewed him at an immediate disadvantage. Essentially, if an outlet were to ask questions the congressman didn’t like, it could lose access.

It did allow him to run a more grassroots campaign. Rather than talk about the indictment, he generally appeared at small gatherings of supporters, often in the rural areas of the district where he saw very positive results Tuesday night.

Collins said moving forward, he plans to make his schedule public and will be available.

“You want to speak to me, you just make a call. We’ll be there.”

The Board of Elections said it likely won’t have final results until around Thanksgiving. The McMurray campaign did request a judge impound ballots on Election Day after hearing reports of issues with voting machines. That request was denied.

NY-27: Collins A No-Show For Annual Debate

From the Morning Memo:

For more than three decades, St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute, a private catholic high school in Buffalo, has hosted an annual political debate.

There was a conspicuous absence this year as candidates for New York’s 27th Congressional District discussed the issues in front of the all-male student body. Incumbent Republican Chris Collins was a no show.

Collins is actively campaigning but has not made his schedule public since being arrested in August and has only granted media interviews on a limited basis (including none to Spectrum News). He appeared Wednesday morning on WBEN and said he would not participate in the debate because it’s not something the campaign thought would benefit his constituents.

His Democratic challenger Nate McMurray gave credit to the high school for holding the event anyway, with an empty podium for Collins, and criticized his opponent for skipping out.

He has been calling for debate since long before the indictment came about.

“It’s a cowardly thing to do. He should be here. There’s only one reason he’s not standing on stage with me and it’s because he doesn’t want to face accountability,” McMurray said.

Reform Party candidate Larry Piegza, in his MAGA hat, also criticized Collins and presented himself as an alternative for Republicans who do not want to vote Democrat.

“I was impressed with the amount of questions that were asked,” he said. “The questions were all great. The crowd was very responsive and into it. I think it was very, very clear that people were searching for alternatives to Chris Collins who obviously is not going to be able to represent our district.”

With less than a week to go before the election, the incumbent appears to remain the favorite, if only slightly, in the state’s most Republican-leaning district. The latest poll conducted by the NY Times and Siena Research Institute gives him a 4 point lead, within the margin of error. Thirteen percent remain undecided.

However, McMurray recently released an internal poll from Tulchin Research which puts him up four points over Collins with just six percent undecided.

Spectrum News/Siena Poll Shows Tight Race In NY-27

From the Morning Memo:

Three weeks out from Election Day, NY-27 appears to still be up for grabs, according to a Spectrum News/Siena College Research Insititute poll released this morning.

With 490 likely voters in the district surveyed Oct. 6-11, 46 percent said they would vote for incumbent Republican Rep. Chris Collins if the election were held today. Forty-three percent said they planned on voting for his opponent, Democrat Nate McMurray, with ten percent who refused to respond or said they were undecided and one percent for the Reform party candidate.

“They clearly want to see the Republicans in control,” pollster Steve Greenberg said. “They clearly like the job that the president is doing but their struggling with their vote for Congress.”

Collins’s slim lead stands in stark contrast to the voters’ responses to other questions in New York’s most Republican-leaning district. By an 18 point margin, for example, they said they want the GOP to continue to control the House.

Eighteen percent more also said they approved of the job President Donald Trump is doing than those who disapproved, which is, according to Greenberg, “by far the best numbers for Trump we’ve seen in a congressional district in New York, and one of the best numbers we’ve seen in a congressional district around the country.”

The poll did not ask voters their opinions about the fact that Collins is facing federal charges related to insider trading. He was indicted in August and is scheduled to face trial in February 2020.

However, based on the congressman’s favorability rating, it seems a safe bet that his legal woes are doing him no favors. Forty-nine percent of voters said they have an unfavorable opinion of Collins compared to 37 percent favorable, and Greenberg said the congressman’s score is low – even among members of his own party.

While the poll seems to be good news for the once long-shot McMurray, Greenberg could not say with certainty that the race is trending in the Democrat’s direction, because there was little to no data before Collins was indicted. Either way, he said, the Democrat remains the underdog given the district’s heavy GOP leanings.

“McMurray’s got to face an electorate that is inclined to vote against him,” Grenberg said. “What he’s got to do is find a way to reinforce with more Republicans, with independents and even with Democrats where he’s not as strong as he necessarily should be, he’s got u find a way to get some more voters over to his side.”

Greenberg also said a few things stand out in the poll results about the demographic breakdown. Siena has seen a gender gap for most races this election cycle, with more women generally leaning toward the Democratic candidate, however NY-27 is not following that trend.

He said education stands out as the biggest distinguishing factor between voters. McMurray has a 15-point lead among voters with a bachelor’s degree or higher, while Collins has a six point lead with those who have less than a bachelor’s degree.

Spectrum News/Siena College… by on Scribd