GOP Rep. Chris Collins will still run for re-election, according to a report from the Buffalo News.
The Buffalo News reported that Collins wrote in an email to supporters that he would still seek re-election in the 27th District despite being indicted Wednesday on charges relating to insider trading and lying to the FBI.
Collins’ arrest could put the seat in play for Democrats, even though it is a heavily Republican district in Western New York. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales shifted the race rating from Solid Republican to Likely Republican.
Collins will face Grand Island town supervisor Nate McMurray in November. McMurray initially had an uphill climb in the district, which President Donald Trump carried by 24 points in 2016. Collins was the first member of Congress to endorse Trump in the presidential primary.
The caused some Democrats to believe the district could now be in play, despite its partisan lean and McMurray’s financial disadvantage. McMurray had $82,000 in cash on hand as of June 30, according to Federal Election Commission documents. Collins’ campaign had $1.3 million on hand.
Watch: Pass the Pie and the Secrets: Collins Allegedly Shared Insider Trading Knowledge While Attending Congressional Picnic
McMurray said at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon that his campaign had experienced a burst of fundraising since the news of Collins’ arrest broke Wednesday morning. McMurray said it may amount to more money than he raised throughout his entire campaign. As of June 30 he had raised a total of $134,000.
“I take no joy in the terrible news we heard today and I would be wrong if I were to gloat,” McMurray said in a livestream of the press conference.
McMurray said he often brought up the ethics investigation against Collins on the campaign trail.
“This is not some big surprise,” said McMurray. “I’ve been talking about this since the first day I got in the race. I got in the race because of this.”
McMurray did not call on Collins to resign. He said that decision was up to the three-term congressman.
One Democratic strategist involved in House races said Wednesday that Democrats could have a better shot at the district if Collins stays in the race.
“There’s potential with an open seat given the nature with this cycle,” said the operative, referring to Democratic energy. “But a guy who’s been arrested by the FBI is kind of a dream opponent.”
Even if Collins wanted to retire in the wake of these charges, it would be nearly impossible to remove his name from the November ballot since he won the GOP nomination in June.
According to a spokesman for the State Board of Elections, state law stipulates three ways to be removed from the ballot: if the candidate dies; failing to meeting basic requirements like age and residency in the state; or running for a second office and declining the nomination for the first office.
The district could still be tough for a Democrat to win, since the 27th District became more Republican in the latest round of redistricting. Democrat Kathy Hochul, now the state’s lieutenant governor, won the seat in a 2011 special election but was defeated by Collins in 2012. Collins was previously the Erie County Executive.
“That said this is the kind of story that can be a game–changer, and the kind of story that generally doesn’t last just a day,” the operative said.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s spokeswoman said Thursday that Collins’ arrest put the seat “firmly in play” for Democrats. The National Republican Congressional Committee has yet to comment on Collins’ indictment.
Correction | A previous version of this story misstated Trump’s margin of victory in the 27th District.