Prison-bound ex-Rep. Chris Collins replaced in New York election

GOP state Sen. Chris Jacobs wins special election in district outside Buffalo

Former New York Rep. Chris Collins was the first member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump for president. He is due to start a 26-month prison sentence for insider trading. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Former New York Rep. Chris Collins was the first member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump for president. He is due to start a 26-month prison sentence for insider trading. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted June 24, 2020 at 12:46am

Republican state Sen. Chris Jacobs won Tuesday’s special election in New York’s 27th District to replace former GOP Rep. Chris Collins, who resigned last year and has been sentenced to more than two years in prison for insider trading. 

Jacobs was leading Democrat Nate McMurray, 69 percent to 30 percent, when The Associated Press called the race for the upstate New York district outside Buffalo. McMurray, a former town supervisor, narrowly lost to Collins in 2018. 

Jacobs was endorsed by President Donald Trump, who carried the seat by 24 points in 2016. Collins was the first member of Congress to endorse Trump that year. 

Jacobs, who declared victory before the AP made its call, said he was “deeply grateful” to Trump for his “early and consistent support throughout this entire election.”

“It has been a long, challenging and ever-changing election, nevertheless the people of Western New York made their voices heard overwhelmingly for strong, conservative leadership!” he said in a statement.

McMurray, however, was not conceding Tuesday night, saying before the AP call that a “historic number of absentee and mail-in ballots still need to be counted.”

“How can you declare victory before the ballots are counted?” he said in a statement.

GOP leaders chose Jacobs in January as their nominee for the special election. First elected to the state Senate in 2016 after serving as Erie County clerk, Jacobs is personally wealthy and loaned his campaign $446,000. 

Jacobs has closely aligned himself with Trump, recently telling The Buffalo News, “It is my hope that Donald Trump wins reelection so he can continue to do the significant things he’s doing to put this nation on a better path.”

Jacobs has been hesitant to criticize the president, even after he put Western New York in the spotlight following recent protests against racism and police brutality. Trump tweeted earlier this month that a protester who suffered a head injury after being pushed by Buffalo police officers was an “ANTIFA provocateur” and questioned whether the confrontation was “a set up.”

“I, like anybody, who watched that video felt strongly how terrible it was that Mr. Gugino was harmed,” Jacobs said in a recent debate on Buffalo CBS affiliate WIVB, referring to the 75 year-old protester Martin Gugino. “We need to get to the bottom of that situation and what happened there.” 

McMurray shot back that Trump “embarrassed our city.” 

“I’m not going to agree with a president who says a Catholic peace protester is a member of antifa,” the Democrat said. “You should have the guts to say the same thing.”

Jacobs then responded, “I think we need to get to the bottom of this. These police officers were doing what they were trained to do. … Why was that individual walking up and gesturing to the belt of a police officer? I’m saying there’s questions that need to be answered.” 

Jacobs told The Buffalo News he voted for Trump in 2016 although he did not donate to his campaign. Jacobs is part of a wealthy family that founded the concession company Delaware North.

Even though the special election is over, the campaign continues for McMurray and Jacobs, who won a separate GOP primary Tuesday for a full term. 

Jacobs, who also had Trump’s endorsement in the primary, was leading with 71 percent of the vote when the AP called the race. Lawyer Beth Parlato and Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw trailed with 15 percent and 14 percent respectively. Parlato had the Conservative Party’s endorsement in the primary.

Jacobs is also favored to win again in November. Of all the House districts in New York state, the 27th backed Trump by the widest margin in 2016. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Solid Republican.