Chris Collins

NY-27 GOP Chairs To Meet In Albany Next Week

The eight Republican county chairs from New York’s 27th Congressional District plan to meet Tuesday in Albany to discuss the next steps in replacing indicted Rep. Chris Collins on the November ballot.

Erie County GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy said party members were already heading to the capital for a state party meeting. He said while action, like naming a new candidate is possible, it is unlikely to happen Tuesday.

In order to open the congressional ballot line, the party needs to first find a landing spot for Collins. Langworthy confirmed recent reports the party is looking closely at town board positions in the congressman’s hometown of Clarence.

The chairman said, as he has several times since Collins suspended his campaign in August, that the party has options as long at the congressman continues to cooperate with him. He said to the best of his knowledge, Collins still plans to work with the party.

In order to choose a replacement, Langworthy said he first needs to be re-elected as county chairman. The party will hold it’s reorganization meeting today, a few weeks earlier than usual.

Langworthy said he believes the other seven counties will move on their reorganization between now and Monday. The party has interviewed a long list of candidates already about the potential vacancy.

Grand Island Town Supervisor Nate McMurray is the Democratic candidate.

Former Collins Staffer Takes Job With Upstate Business Coalition

While indicted Congressman Chris Collins continues to serve the remainder of his term, a senior staff member has left the office for a new job.

Former Deputy Chief-of-Staff Michael Kracker has accepted a position as the executive director of bipartisan business coalition Unshackle Upstate. Kracker worked on Collins campaign in 2012 and has been on his staff for his entire tenure with the House of Representatives.

He is also the chairman for the Erie County Young Republicans.

“As a lifelong Upstate New Yorker, I’m all too aware of the struggles that our hardworking residents must face every day. Sky-high taxes and energy costs, burdensome red tape and costly state mandates are just some of the factors that hurt the Upstate economy,” Kracker said. “I’m excited to lead Unshackle Upstate’s efforts to improve our economy and fight for a brighter future for my fellow Upstate New Yorkers.”

As executive director, he will lead the organizations advocacy efforts in Albany and across Upstate New York. He will also handle outreach with Unshackle Upstate’s 80 partners which include businesses and trade organizations.

“Michael has an acute understanding of politics at all levels of government and an appreciation for how policy impacts employers and hardworking taxpayers across Upstate for better or worse,” Buffalo Niagara Partnership President and CEO Dottie Gallagher said. “I am excited for the next chapter of Unshackle Upstate’s success with Michael as our new executive director.”

Collins announced last month, following federal insider trading charges, he would suspend his campaign for reelection but continue to serve his district. Local Republicans are continuing to try to determine how to get the congressman off the ballot and have yet to name a replacement.

Grand Island Town Supervisor Nate McMurray is challenging Collins on the Democratic ticket.

Rep. Reed Doesn’t Have A Favorite For Collins Replacement

For now at least, it appears Rep. Tom Reed, (R-NY-23) will head to Congress in 2019 with a new colleague from his neighboring 27th district.

This weekend Chris Collins suspended his campaign and local Republicans believe they can get him off the November ballot.

“I do believe Chris made the right decision to step aside and he’s obviously dealing with a very serious situation, him and his family,” Reed said.

However, the Southern Tier Republican said he’s not inserting himself into the decision-making process to find Collins replacement. He said that’s up to the GOP chairs of the eight counties that comprise the district.

Reed said he has not picked a favorite of the roughly fifteen candidates the party is considering. He is encouraged by the pool though.

“Whoever they select, and I’ll defer to them on who that selection is, will carry the message that they believe in to the people in November and it’s really up to the people decide who’s going to represent them and be their voice in Washington D.C.,” Reed said.

During a Tuesday conference call, the congressman did specifically address two candidates in response to questions from reporter. He said state Senator Pat Gallivan, the former Erie County sheriff, has a rich law enforcement background and has served his district well in the state Legislature.

He also weighed in on outspoken Buffalo businessman and political figure Carl Paladino. Reed ran for Congress in 2010 at the same time Paladino was running for Governor of New York, and said they got to know each other on the campaign trail.

He said Paladino has stepped up and done many good things for the community, despite being somewhat of a political lightning rod.

“The best thing about the 27th congressional district, and Carl Paladino included in this assessment, is you got some really good people stepping forward and willing to do public service and if you come at this with a public servant’s heart, I think the styles can be addressed and can be taken care of,” he said.

Reed said the 27th congressional seat is obviously less safe than it was a week ago, but he said the district remains very Republican and he expects the selected candidate to stabilize it even further with a vision that is reflective of its voters.

Rep. Collins Suspends Campaign

Western New York Congressman Chris Collins is suspending his campaign for re-election. 

The announcement comes several days after federal prosecutors charged the Republican with crimes related to insider trading. Wednesday, after his court appearance, Collins flew to Buffalo where he vowed to clear his name and continue running, during a brief press conference.

However, he found tepid support from local Republicans at best. While the party did not call for him to stop campaigning, leaders openly questioned how effective he could be while navigating his legal troubles.

“Democrats are laser focused on taking back the House, electing Nancy Pelosi Speaker and then launching impeachment proceedings against President Trump. They would like nothing more than to elect an ‘Impeach Trump’ Democrat in this District, which is something that neither our country or my party can afford,” Collins said. “After extensive discussions with my family and my friends over the last few days, I have decided that it is in the best interests of the constituents of NY-27, the Republican Party and President Trump’s agenda for me to suspend my campaign for re-election to Congress.”

Erie County Republican Committee Chairman Nick Langworthy said he believed there would be a mechanism to remove Collins from the ballot if he decided to stop his campaign. The congressman said he will serve out his term and continue to fight the charges.

NY-27: Hochul Fully Behind McMurray For Congress, Believes He Can Win

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, D-NY, is not thinking about what could have been.

In April, national party leaders were made a last minute push, with the help of the governor, to try to get her on the ballot against Republican Congressman Chris Collins in New York’s 27th Congressional District. Hochul rejected the effort, choosing to continue her campaign for reelection as LG instead.

The thought at the time was that Hochul, who once held the seat, would have a significantly better chance of defeating Collins than the Democratic designee, current Grand Island Town Supervisor Nate McMurray. However, in the state’s strongest Republican district, even a candidate as well-known as the lieutenant governor would likely enter as an underdog.

This week everything changed when federal prosecutors brought charges related to insider trading against Collins. Even as behind the scenes, GOP leaders are considering their options, the congressman insists his campaign will continue.

Suddenly, what seemed a likely Republican win has become a battleground seat with significant resources coming in from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Hochul said she loved representing the district (at the time called the 26th), but still prefers her current job.

“It was an absolute privilege to represent that area as a member of Congress and it breaks my heart to know that for the last six years they’ve been represented by someone who has put his own financial interests ahead of their own, but serving as lieutenant governor has given me a great deal of latitude in being able to represent the entire state and work on issues where you actually get things done,” she said.

Hochul said she is fully behind McMurray and believes he can win. Afterall, she came within 2 percentage points of beating Collins in 2012, even after it was redrawn to become even more Republican.

She believes people in the district can overlook the candidate’s party affiliation and realize he better represents their middle class values than the incumbent.

“I lost it by a very small percentage so it is in my opinion doable,” she said. “Those were difficult times and people were very much against the president at the time which was unfortunate because the president had good policies that helped people of that district. I think now there’s an opportunity for people to take a second look at who they want representing them in Congress.”

As for what Collins should do: Hochul said his legal battle will no doubt be a distraction but it’s up to him and his party to decide if he should resign. She said she doesn’t think he’s been properly serving the district for the last six years, so the constituents would not necessarily be better or worse off regardless of the decision.

Erie County GOP Boss Still Hasn’t Spoken With Rep. Collins About Indictment

New York’s 27th Congressional District is comprised of eight counties, but roughly a third of the voting base comes from Erie County.

So it would make sense that in what is also the state’s most Republican district, the Erie County GOP chairman would have regular communication with its congressman. However, as of early Thursday afternoon, more than 24 hours after federal prosecutors announced the indictment of Rep. Chris Collins, ECRC Chairman Nick Langworthy said he still hadn’t spoken with him about the news.

“I believe there could be mechanisms in place where he could theoretically get off the ballot but he says he intends to remain to fight. I’ve seen the same public statements that you have,” Langworthy said. “I have not spoken with Congressman Collins so I don’t know if that’s an evolving situation or that’s where he intends to remain.”

The party boss hardly gave Collins a ringing endorsement. He called the federal charges a distraction and openly questioned how the congressman will be able to fulfill his congressional and campaign obligations if Collins, as he has vowed, refuses to answer questions about his involvement with Innate Immunotherapeutics and the insider trading of which he’s accused.

“This is the latest, to my understanding, the latest indictment against a member of Congress that’s ever been put down in terms of closeness to election day, so any thought that this does not affect the outcome of the election, I think is nonsense,” he said.

Langworthy said the facts in the indictment are laid out by prosecutors very strongly, but he questioned the timing considering the events in question happened more than a year ago. He said if charges had come weeks or months earlier, it would have been easier for the party to have exit strategies.

Now, he won’t even say if Collins remains the favorite in the district.

“I’m not going to handicap anything,” Langworthy said. “I mean this is all very fresh. I think the district is a conservative Republican district. The challenge to Congressman Collins is can you effectively still get the base vote out for you.”

Eventually the chairman does expect to reach out to the congressman but he wouldn’t divulge what he plans to say in the private conversation or whether he will ask personally for Collins to resign.

McMurray Responds To Collins Press Conference

Democratic congressional candidate Nate McMurray’s tone has changed ever so slightly over the last 24 hours.

Wednesday afternoon, during a press conference in Hamburg, McMurray said it wasn’t his role to tell indicted Congressman Chris Collins whether he should resign, but he knew what he would do in the same situation. However, at that time Collins had not spoken publicly about his intentions.

The congressman did hold a brief press conference Wednesday night, in which he didn’t take questions from the media, and announced he would carry on his campaign.

“I saw the press conference last night that many of you saw and I’ll be honest, my feelings turned to anger,” McMurray said Thursday. “I saw Mr. Collins brag about trying to help MS victims when we know he didn’t talk about that when he was in D.C. He bragged about making his fellow congressman millionaires. He bragged about deleting his emails three times a day. These are things that he said.”

The candidate was speaking again, this time on the other side of the district in Rochester. He said getting out of the race would have been the right thing for Collins to do but instead the Republican “doubled down.”

McMurray said he remains confident he will win though as his campaign gains momentum and funding as a result of Collins insider trading scandal.

“He doesn’t think the rules apply to him, the same rules that apply to everybody else, that if you treat people right and you work hard things pay off and if you cheat you get thrown out,” he said.

McMurray’s campaign said he spoke with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee this morning which is also sending technical assistance into the district. It is in the process of restructuring and adding new positions.

Cuomo on Collins, Post Indictment

Gov. Andrew Cuomo addressed the federal charges brought against Rep. Chris Collins during a press conference today New York City.

“After yesterday, should he resign or not? You know, that’s up to him, but I didn’t think he was capable of representing the interest of his district before yesterday,” the governor said.

Cuomo and Collins have had a series of highly public battles over the past year or so. They sparred over a number of topics, but the governor’s most regular criticism of the congressman had to do with the Republican lawmaker’s support for the federal tax reform bill, which, among other things, capped the deductibility of state and local taxes (also known as “SALT”).

Cuomo brought the issue up again today as a reason he feels Collins is unfit to hold office.

“He consistently put his political affiliation ahead of the people of his district,” the governor said. “Consistently. The tax bill hurt New York State directly, and it had a penalty for New York State and 11 other states that no other states had. How as a Congress person do you justify voting for a bill that disproportionately hurts your state? How do you do that?”

Cuomo, a former state attorney general, also addressed the specific charges brought separately against the congressman by the U.S. attorney and the SEC.

While Collins faces eleven counts, including conspiracy to commit securities fraud and securities fraud, Cuomo suggested that at the very least, the allegation he made false statements to the FBI would be difficult to contest.

“They are very, very serious and lying to the FBI is a fairly straightforward charge, not a lot of nuance to it,” he said. “It doesn’t get into the underlying facts. It just gets into the representation made to the FBI. From his point of view I think it’s a highly problematic charge.”

It’s no secret that Cuomo would very much like to see Collins defeated, though even with the charges against him, that could prove difficult, given the fact that the district is the most GOP-dominated in the entire state.

The governor earlier this year floated the idea of having his lieutenant governor, Kathy Hochul, challenge Collins – a sort of re-match for Hochul since Collins ousted her from the seat she had won in a special election.

But it was widely speculated Cuomo really had his own political best interests in mind, and a desire to replace Hochul with a candidate who might have better ticket balancing capabilities. But Hochul stood her ground, and refused to be pushed aside, saying she wanted to seek re-election as LG and wasn’t interested in returning to D.C.

Collins Presser Leaves Unanswered Questions

From the Morning Memo:

Indicted Rep. Chris Collins will not be discussing his involvement with Innate Immunotherapeutics or the charges connected to that involvement outside of court.

The Western New York Republican made crystal clear – first in a letter to supporters, and then at a brief press conference following his arraignment in New York City – that yesterday would be the last time he mentioned the Australian biotechnology company in public.

To be fair, he did not say all that much about the situation yesterday, either.

Collins chose to fly from his court date in Manhattan back to Buffalo before finally addressing reporters about the indictment. The conference was delayed close to two hours because, according to his staffers, the congressman’s plane was inexplicably delayed.

When he finally emerged to face the press, with his wife of 30 years at his side, Collins spoke for roughly six minutes, reading from multiple pages he held in his hand. He left without taking any questions from reporters.

The congressman detailed his long history of experience in both the public and private sectors, and sought to explain his relationship with the Australian biotech company connected to the charges he now faces.

“I’ve been avid and unwavering supporter of Innate Immunotherapeutics for more than 15 years, long before I came to Congress or was elected county executive here in Erie County,” Collins said.

He insisted the company would have gone under without his “investments and steadfast financial support,” jeopardizing a drug he believed could revolutionize the treatment of secondary progressive Multiple Sclerosis. Collins said finding a cure for the disease was at the “top of the list” of things he wanted to do with his life.

The congressman insinuated during the press conference that all his motivations and involvement with the company were altruistic, despite speculation to the contrary from his political opponents. He said he believes he acted appropriately and within the law at all times, and again pointed out he lost millions by holding onto his shares.

Federal prosecutors said he had no choice but to hold onto the stock, particularly given the fact that he was already under investigation by the House Ethics Committee for potential insider trading.

Collins did not address that fact, nor did he discuss the suspicious timeline, outlined by prosecutors, in which he received news of the company’s failed clinical trial, and made numerous calls to his son within minutes of receiving that confidential information, which was followed by his son’s prompt selloff of a massive amounts of Innate shares.

Collins actually made no mention of his son at all, despite the fact that he too has been charged in the cases brought by the U.S. attorney’s office and the SEC.

The congressman promised a “vigorous” defense in court, which would clear his name and make sure no questions remained about his involvement with Innate. He also reiterated a pledge to supporters made earlier in the day that he would remain on the ballot in the general election, though Democrats now insist his seat is in play, despite the fact that the district is the most GOP-dominated in the state.

SEC Brings Civil Charges Against Collins As Well

In addition to the criminal charges against Rep. Chris Collins, R-NY-27, brought forward by the Department of Justice, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced separate but related civil charges against Collins and two other named defendants.

The congressman, his son Cameron Collins, and Cameron’s future father-in-law Stephen Zarsky are all charged with violating Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 as well as Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933.  The complaint seeks “disgorgement of ill-gotten gains plus interest, penalties and permanent injunctions, as well as an order that would bar Chris Collins from being an officer or director at a public company.”

“Being a director of a public company is a privilege, a privilege that comes with responsibilities,” Stephanie Avakian, of the SEC, said. “Chris Collins is alleged to have abused this privilege and breached his responsibilities by engaging in illegal insider trading.”

In addition, the SEC said it has settled charges against Cameron Collins’ fiancé, Lauren Zarsky, and her mother, Dorothy Zarsky, for trading on the basis of material, non-public information.