Chris Collins

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

NY-27: Hochul Endorses McMurray, Predicts ‘Jail’ For Collins

The campaign for Democratic congressional candidate Nate McMurray scored a big endorsement Thursday morning.

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul has been open about her preference in New York’s 27th District, but formally announced her support for the candidate at a labor rally in the village of Blasdell. McMurray said it’s an important moment for his underdog campaign.

“A lot of people here trust her,” he said. “They know her name and to have someone like that endorse me and being by my side, it’s a big deal.”

It wasn’t that long ago, national Democrats and the governor were pushing behind the scenes for Hochul to replace McMurray on the ballot, an effort they both rejected. The lieutenant governor was the last Dem to hold the most Republican-leaning seat in the state – what was NY-26 before redistricting.

After it was redrawn even more favorably for the GOP, Hochul narrowly lost to Chris Collins in 2012. However, she said she believes there has always been a roadmap to a McMurray victory this year.

“I thought Nate could win regardless and I told him all along, I believe that the time is right for you to win. But God is looking down on this race because someone is getting his due once and for all,” she said.

Hochul pointed to her own win in September’s Democratic primary as a good sign for the McMurray. Across the eight counties in NY-27, Democratic turnout was significantly up from four years ago, and she believes those voters will turnout for the congressional race as well.

Aside from the oft-predicted “Blue Wave,” Hochul admitted Collins federal indictment for crimes related to insider trading has had an impact on the race. The endorsement comes on the same day, Collins attorneys were appearing in U.S. District Court in New York City for a hearing and Hochul, in a moment of candor, predicted an undesirable conclusion for her long-time nemesis.

“The individual that we’re running against is seriously ethically flawed and challenged and will be in jail, probably by the end of next year. That’s my guess, okay. I shouldn’t have said that but that’s alright,” she said.

McMurray wouldn’t go that far, pointing out Collins is innocent until proven guilty, but he believes the charges should have at least ended his opponent’s campaign. Regardless, he said the election is shifting in his direction with a strong fundraising showing for the third quarter and a recent internal poll indicating the race is a dead heat.

We’ve reached out to the Collins campaign for a statement in response to the endorsement.

Molinaro Doesn’t Expect Collins To Negatively Impact GOP Gubernatorial Turnout In WNY

Republican gubernatorial candidate Marc Molinaro weighed in on the decision made by Rep. Chris Collins, R-NY-27, to remain on the ballot this November.

Collins, who federal prosecutor’s charged last month with crimes connected to insider trading, unsuspended his campaign earlier this week. The congressman said he is now “actively campaigning” while simultaneously working to clear his name.

“I will say that it’s certainly, certainly wasn’t what I was expecting but it’s a decision that he his family and his lawyers decided,” Molinaro said.

Collins also said he will serve the district in Congress if re-elected, a decision some members of the GOP including Carl Paladino have speculated might dissuade voters from coming to the polls. The district is traditionally a Republican stronghold, and a region where Paladino did very well during his 2010 campaign for governor.

However, Molinaro said he’s not concerned about Collins situation affecting his prospects.

“I suspect there will be heavy turnout nonetheless,” Molinaro said. “Certainly we want to be sure that voters understand in this district, in this part of the state, that the governor has turned his back on Western New York. He has and I won’t.”

The candidate was in Buffalo again Friday, as part of his “Cuomo Corruption Tour.”

Gallivan Not Sold on Collins Re-elect

From the Morning Memo:

Add state Sen. Pat Gallivan’s name to the list of Western New York Republicans who aren’t thrilled with the idea of sending disgraced Rep. Chris Collins back to Washington as he’s battling charges of insider trading and lying to the FBI.

During a CapTon interview last night, Gallivan, who took himself out of the running early on as a potential replacement for Collins on the November ballot – back before the congressman decided he would seek re-elect despite his legal troubles after all – said he needs to be convinced to vote for Collins, though he didn’t express a preference for any other candidate.

“For me, I’m one of his constituents, my district – all but two or three towns – sit wholly within that 27th Congressional District, and I think that Congressman Collins has to make his case, make a case to his constituents – myself included – in order to be re-elected,” the senator said.

When pressed on whether that means he can’t be counted on to vote “yes” on Collins, Gallivan replied:

“I serve the citizens, and I try to be responsive to the citizens that I serve, and I think he needs to do the same. He has said publicly that he is innocent of these charges, and I think that what he needs to do tell us about it, tell us that he is innocent and convince us that he is.”

“And if he can successfully do that, then he can be re-elected. I think he owes that, he has said that publicly, he now owes that to his constituents.”

WNY GOP officials had been struggling to figure out how to get Collins off the general election ballot and replace him with someone else – all while Democrats threatened to challenge any such move in court.

But Collins this week made their decision for them, announcing that on the advice of his attorneys, he had decided to run for re-election, and subsequently has said he plans to actively campaign while also fighting to clear his name.

The Cook Political Report has moved the NY-27 race to “leans Republican” from “likely Republican,” saying Collins flip-flop on his re-election bid improves the chances of his Democratic opponent, Grand Island Town Supervisor Nate McMurray, despite the overwhelming GOP enrollment edge in the district.