Indicted GOP Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY-27) announced on Monday he will remain on the general election ballot in November, throwing the outcome of the House race in the strongly Republican congressional district he has represented since 2012 into chaos.
The Buffalo News reported the stunning development early Monday afternoon:
A Collins lawyer confirmed the congressman’s plans after The Buffalo News uncovered the story.
“Because of the protracted and uncertain nature of any legal effort to replace Congressman Collins we do not see a path allowing Congressman Collins to be replaced on the ballot,” attorney Mark Braden said in a prepared statement.
Collins’ decision brought cheers Monday when it was announced at a rally for his Democratic opponent, Grand Island Supervisor Nate McMurray.
In any event, the move signals an end to more than a month of legal wrangling as top election lawyers retained by the GOP attempted to find some legal loophole to substitute Collins as a candidate for another office, thus removing him from the congressional ballot at this late date on the political calendar. But even some of the potential solutions, such as substituting Collins onto a Town Board slot in his home town of Clarence, were expected to be challenged in court.
“Nick Langworthy, chairman of the Erie County Republican Party in New York, told reporters that Collins’s decision to remain on the ballot was a ‘pretty great surprise’ after he and other party officials had spent weeks trying to orchestrate Collins’s replacement, ” the Washington Post reported:
“Our hope was to substitute a candidate that could have run as a true conservative Republican working to pass President Trump’s agenda without distraction,” he told reporters at a news conference. “Unfortunately we’re not going to have that opportunity at this point.”
Langworthy said he learned Friday from Collins’s lawyers that Collins would not, in fact, cooperate with that process and confirmed that fact Monday morning in a phone call with Collins himself. He declined to describe the phone call except to say that Collins indicated he was following his attorneys’ advice.
“You can’t help but feel like a jilted groom at the altar here,” Langworthy said, saying Republicans “had the rug pulled out from under us” by Collins.
After Collins originally announced last month his decision to remove himself from the November ballot just days after his indictment, Breitbart News rated the race as competitive but “looking good” for Republicans.
After Monday’s sudden reversal, however, Breitbart News now rates the race as “needing a big push” for Republicans to win.
Where such a push on his behalf will come is unclear, given the surprise nature of Collins’ announcement Monday, the serious nature of the charges against him, and the apparent bitterness towards him from local Republicans who were jockeying to replace him on the ballot.