Republicans face obstacles to drop Collins from ballot

Rep. Chris Collins leaving federal court in Manhattan after his arraignment on insider trading charges.
Rep. Chris Collins leaving federal court in Manhattan after his arraignment on insider trading charges.
BRYAN R SMITH/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Rep. Chris Collins leaving federal court in Manhattan after his arraignment on insider trading charges.

Republicans face obstacles to drop Collins from ballot

Western New York party leaders will meet Tuesday to decide on their options.
August 13, 2018

Western New York Republicans plan to meet tomorrow in Batavia to figure out how they might replace Rep. Chris Collins on the November ballot, Republicans county leaders tell City & State.

About a dozen Republicans are being considered to replace the Republican lawmaker on the ballot in the 27th District after he announced over the weekend that he would drop his bid for re-election. But first the county party chairs of eight counties have to figure out how to take Collins off the ballot after he announced over the weekend that he would not seek re-election following his indictment and arrest for alleged insider trading.

Only after they have gotten Collin off the ballot, can party leaders decide on the dozen or so potential replacements to face off against Democrat Nate McMurray in the November election.

GOP county leaders are considering two options for removing Collins from the ballot, according to media reports. One option is to nominate him for a county clerkship somewhere else in the state in order to disqualify him from the ballot and allow another candidate to take his place in the 27th Congressional District, The New York Times reports. There is also the possibility of establishing that the three-term congressman is an out-of-state resident because of his houses in Washington, D.C. and Florida, according to Politico.

These options would likely result in court challenges from Democrats that would effectively delay replacing Collins until after the election, according to Alan Goldston, an election attorney based in Yonkers. There is only one “surefire” way for Collins to get off the ballot in time for the election, other than dying. “If he really wanted to get off the ballot he could just plead guilty,” he said in a telephone interview, because, under the law, the party can drop Collins from the ballot if he is convicted of a crime.

The eligibility requirements for county clerkships are dependent on the location, further complicating that possibility. The deadline for parties to nominate a candidate for a judgeship is Oct. 2, according to the state Board of Elections, but Collins is not an attorney, making him ineligible for what Goldston called “a time-honored tradition” for parties looking to replace a candidate by nominating him or her for a judgeship.

Jumping through all the bureaucratic hoops to get Collins disqualified also risks alienating voters, according to Jerry Goldfeder, a New York City election attorney, which could ultimately help McMurray if Collins is taken off the ballot. “The long and short is that the GOP has to find a vacancy for indicted Collins to run for, which would take a special kind of chutzpah and disrespect of the voters,” Goldfeder said in an email.

Zach Williams
is a staff reporter at City & State.
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