Chris Collins

Collins’ arrest creates an opening for Democrat Nate McMurray

The chance of flipping NY-27 goes from nothing to something.

Rep. Chris Collins leaves Federal Court in Manhattan following his arraignment on insider trading charges.

Rep. Chris Collins leaves Federal Court in Manhattan following his arraignment on insider trading charges. BRYAN R SMITH/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Two days ago, Rep. Chris Collins seemed a lock for re-election. The Western New York Republican had nearly 20 times more money that his Democratic opponent in a district that Donald Trump carried by 24 percent in 2016. Then, on Wednesday, Collins got charged with securities fraud and his seat became the newest opportunity in the national Democratic effort to take control of the House of Representatives.

But whether Democratic nominee Nate McMurray, the town supervisor of Grand Island, can raise enough money, secure enough outside support and win over enough right-leaning voters to win in November, remain open questions. For now, McMurray has basked in the newfound attention to a campaign that has run on a shoestring budget up to this point — Niagara Gazette reported he had about $80,000 on hand last month.

As of yet, he has not spoken to state party leaders about rallying additional support behind his candidacy, McMurray said at a press conference in Hamburg, N.Y., which was livestreamed on social media. “We’re feeling more and more confident every minute,” he said. “They still have more money than we’ll ever have (but) if this wouldn’t have come out, he would’ve coasted in.”

Collins turned himself over to federal authorities on Aug. 8 following the release of an indictment filed in federal court in Manhattan. The indictment alleges that in the summer of 2017 he became aware that the stock price of an Australia-based drug company he invested in was about to tank because of a failed drug trial. He then told his son Cameron about it. Cameron allegedly alerted others, allowing a group of investors to sell their stocks before the news became public and avoid more than $768,000 in losses.

Rep. Collins is also accused of giving false statements and wire fraud, according to the indictment. He could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of insider trading, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

Collins pleaded not guilty to the charges at an arraignment in Manhattan and vowed to stay in the race for a fourth term in an email to supporters later that day, State of Politics reports. He added that he would discuss the charges outside court moving forward.

The Cook Political Report has changed its assessment of the race from “solid Republican” to “lean Republican.” Nate Silver, editor-in-chief of the data-crunching website FiveThirtyEight, said in a Twitter post that the scandal gives McMurray a shot — considering that a scandal of Collins’ severity historically “costs a House candidate on the order of 10-12 percentage points” in an election, Silver said.

But McMurray may need more than 10-12 points. The district in the Buffalo suburbs is very Republican. In 2014 and 2016 Collins defeated his Democratic opponents by about 40 points and 35 points, respectively. “It’s a deep red suburban ring surrounding a blue urban area,” said Jacob Neiheisel, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Buffalo, of the 27th Congressional District. But Collins’ first election to Congress was a much closer race, when the former Erie County executive defeated now-Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul 51 to 49 percent.

In the past two years, Collins has emerged as one of the most high-profile supporters of Donald Trump. He was the first Republican in Congress to endorse Trump during the 2016 Republican primary and was a part of the transition after the election. He has remained a vocal supporter of the president, echoing Trump’s talking points on taxes, immigration and other issues.

Historical averages of how much ethical scandals cost candidates may be misleading in such a polarized partisan environment. The recent Senate race in Alabama shows how deep partisanship allegiances run even when a candidate is accused of serious misconduct, according to Neiheisel.

More money will pour into McMurray’s account from out of state, as it did for Doug Jones in Alabama, Neiheisel said in a telephone interview. But that boost comes with the risk that Collins supporters will label McMurray as a puppet of outside interests, Neiheisel said. It also could galvanize grassroots conservative support for Collins. Indeed, Republicans generally have stood by President Trump, despite close associates such as his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort being accused of serious white-collar crimes. “No doubt it’s going to be a much tighter race going forward,” he added. “I still wouldn’t put money on the Democrat pulling it out.”

In some ways, McMurray is downplaying his Democratic affiliation, focusing on his local roots and everyman persona. He didn’t grow up with photos of J.F.K. on his wall, he said at the press conference. Instead he posted Larry Bird’s photo on the wall growing up, and Ronald Reagan was one of his idols, he added.

Despite his efforts to represent the political center in the race, McMurray has not escaped the notice of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. It’s unclear at this point what additional resources might be allocated to support McMurray, but the race was already on the organization’s “target list” of congressional races because the allegations had been public knowledge for months.

The indictment and arrest of Chris Collins has shaken up the race and substantiates the image of him as an out-of-touch support in the pockets of donors and the rich, according to Meredith Kelly, a DCCC spokeswoman. “The chickens have come home to roost,” She said in a statement. “With Collins’ arrest for corruption, unprecedented grassroots energy, and the strong candidacy of Nate McMurray, this seat is firmly in play for Democrats.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan announced after the release of the indictment that Collins will not be serving on the Energy and Commerce Committee while the House Ethics Committee investigates. A spokesman for Collins did not respond to a request for comment by publication time, but a press conference was scheduled in Buffalo for Wednesday evening.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.