Chris Collins

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.

NY-27: Collins Will ‘Actively Campaign’ and Serve If Reelected

Indicted Republican Congressman Chris Collins sent a letter to media and supporters Wednesday afternoon, promising to “actively campaign” for reelection.

Collins, who suspended his campaign in August, several days after federal prosecutor brought charges related to insider trading against him, surprised GOP leaders Monday when he decided to remain on the ballot. With the exception of a brief statement from his attorneys, the congressman had not been heard from since the decision.

However Wednesday, he promised not only to reestablish the campaign, but to serve if reelected.

The stakes are too high to allow the radical left to take control of this seat in Congress. Their agenda is clear. They want to reverse the recently enacted tax cuts, impose Canadian style healthcare, inflict new job-killing regulations and impeach President Trump,” he wrote. “We cannot stand by and let that happen.”

Democratic challenger and current Grand Island Town Supervisor Nate McMurray’s campaign has received vastly increased attention and support in the past six week. Cook Political Report recently upgraded his prospects of winning although he remains an underdog in the GOP-leaning 27th Congressional District.

The candidate promised an in depth statement in response but responded to the news on Twitter with two words.

“Bring it,” McMurray said.

Some Republicans, including former gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino, had called for Collins to vow to resign if reelected. The congressman could potentially face expulsion and/or censure if convicted.

Collins has a status hearing in U.S. District Court Southern District of New York scheduled for October 11.

Gillibrand on Collins: ‘I Don’t Know How He Does It’

From the Morning Memo:

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand was in Buffalo yesterday when the news broke that indicted Republican Rep. Chris Collins would remain on the November ballot in the NY-27 general election race.

The Democrat called the insider trading accusation allegations against Collins very serious. The senator punted, however, when asked if she was surprised Collins had reversed course after suspending his campaign last month in the face of pressure from fellow Republican leaders.

“I don’t know his motivations,” Gillibrand said. “I just know no one’s above the law, and the voters will have the opportunity to be heard on that issue.”

If Collins were to win – a prospect many observers still believe is the most likely outcome in the state’s most GOP-dominated House district – Gillibrand said she believes he will have difficulty actually serving. It’s unclear if Collins would chose to resign, allowing for a special election to fill his seat, or remain in office while his legal battle plays out in federal court.

“I don’t know how he does it,” Gillibrand said. “I think we’re supposed to be public servants first, and obviously the allegations show that he was putting his financial gains first, that of his family and his family member’s friends.”

As for the congressman’s challenger, Democratic Grand Island Town Supervisor Nate McMurray, Gillibrand said she hasn’t met him, but has heard great things about him.

The senator said she supports McMurray and believes he will win.

GOP Meeting In Albany Has New Purpose Following Collins Decision

The eight Republican county chairman in New York’s 27th Congressional District were planning to meet Tuesday in Albany finalize details on how they would get Rep. Chris Collins off the November ballot.

Erie County GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy said they had a “crystal clear” plan and expected the substitution for another candidate to happen by Thursday or Friday. However, that plan would have required Collins to accept a nomination for another office and decline his congressional lines, and Monday morning Republican leaders learned they no longer had the congressman’s cooperation.

Langworthy did not give specific details of what the plan was, although he had confirmed earlier in the week the party was eyeing positions in Collins’ hometown of Clarence.

“At this point, I don’t need to get through with all that but I had some people that were prepared to absolutely do some selfless things this week and at this point that will not have to come into the forefront because Congressman Collins is going to remain on the ballot,” he said.

Now, GOP leaders will use Tuesday’s meeting at the capital to discuss how to move forward with Collins as the candidate. Langworthy, during a press conference, seemed to be setting the table for how the party will handle it.

“(Collins) has a vast war chest of $1.3 million,” Langworthy said. “I assume he will put that to work if he’s going to remain on the ballot. I think it’s very important that this seat stays in Republican hands because Nate McMurray is a vote to impeach the president.”

Langworthy said if Collins is going to be the candidate, he expects the congressman, who suspended his campaign last month, to get back to work, including speaking with the media. He also said he expects, should the congressman win, he will be sworn in for another term.

The chairman called the situation the most difficult thing he’s faced in more than eight years on the job. He said Republicans felt it was better for voters in NY-27 to have a choice who wasn’t distracted by a federal legal battle.

Collins to Stay on November Ballot, Dems Crow

Democrats are thrilled that disgraced Rep. Chris Collins is remaining on the NY-27 ballot in the November general election despite the fact that he is fighting charges of insider trading and lying to the FBI and said – after initially insisting he intended to see the race through, that he wouldn’t be seeking re-election.

The Buffalo News reports that Collins “has heeded the advice of his criminal attorneys who fear the potential complications of protracted election law challenges almost sure to be initiated by Democrats if he removed his name from the congressional ballot.”

“In an attempt to end a devastating news cycle following Congressman Chris Collins’ indictment, Republicans immediately vowed that they would get their scandalized Congressman off the federal ballot, but we now know that this wasn’t true,” DCCC spokeswoman Meredith Kelly said in a statement.

“In the most stark sign that House Republicans are a corrupt and unethical body only out to benefit themselves and their special interests, there are now two indicted Republicans on the ballot in November.”

“The voters of New York 27th Congressional District now have the clearest of choices between scandal-plagued Chris Collins and Nate McMurray, who will be a real fighter for the families of Western New York, and the stakes just got a whole lot higher on November 6th.”

The other indicted GOP congressman running in this cycle, to whom Kelly referred, is Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, who is facing criminal charges for allegedly using campaign funds on tequila shots, family trips to Hawaii and Italy, and other personal expenses.

Local Republicans, meanwhile, are not at all happy – Erie County GOP Chair Nick Langworthy told the paper he felt like “a groom jilted at the alter.” But the truth is they have been struggling for weeks now to figure out 1) how to get Collins off the ballot without facing a prolonged legal challenge from the Democrats, and 2) who to replace Collins with once he was gone, since the top contenders were state Senate Republicans, and taking them out of the mix would potentially further endanger the party’s already tenuous hold on the majority.

Another problem NY-27 GOP officials faced was the lack of enthusiasm among local electeds about the idea of stepping aside to give Collins somewhere to drop down to in order to get out of running for Congress.

The Democratic candidate in NY-27. Nate McMurray, learned of the news regarding his opponent’s status while hosting DNC Chairman (and Buffalo native) Tom Perez at a campaign HQ opening. In a statement, McMurray said it’s “nice to finally know who I’m running against,” but also insisted he “always knew” he would end up facing off against the congressman.

“There are laws for a reason. There is accountability in our society for a reason,” McMurray said. “And in the greatest democracy in the world, voters weren’t going to take this kind of sham switching around names on a ballot at the whims of local party bosses.”

“I credit the people of Western New York for standing up in town after town saying ‘don’t force him on the ballot in my town.’ They saw through this fraud. They weren’t going to fall for the bait and switch strategy by the same team that endorsed, celebrated, took pictures with and defended Chris Collins.”

McMurray said he believes NY-27 voters “like that I’m an underdog” and expressed excitement about the remaining 50 days of the campaign.

For the record, FiveThirtyEight.com says Collins has a one in five shot at winning in November.