BUFFALO, NY - The republican chairpersons from the eight counties in the 27th Congressional District will meet Tuesday in Batavia to map strategy regarding this November’s election, following incumbent Chris Collin’s arrest for alleged insider trading,.
Erie County’s GOP chair, Nicholas Langworthy, says the purpose of the meeting is not to designate a candidate to replace Collins on the ballot, but to discuss options in terms of removing his name from it.
“We believe we have mechanisms in place for Congressman Collins to come off the ballot,” Langworthy told WGRZ-TV.
However, even though Collins now says he will not seek re-election, getting his name off the ballot won’t necessarily be easy.
With democrats smelling blood, and seeking to exploit their new found advantage in this heavily republican district, they’re most likely to mount a court challenge to any effort by republicans to replace Collins’ name on the ballot.
One option being weighed by republican leaders involves a scenario whereby Collins makes himself ineligible as a candidate by changing his permanent residency to another state.
“He has homes in Florida and Washington," noted Langworthy.
But there's legal precedent indicating that might not work.
When former House Speaker Tom DeLay, who like Collins was indicted on criminal charges, changed his residency in an attempt to get his name off the ballot, the case ended up in Federal court -- where he lost.
It also might be ironic for the local GOP to try to take this tack.
In 2008, it objected when Democrat congressional candidate Jon Powers – after his primary loss to Alice Kryzan, moved out of state to cede his remaining slot on the Working Families Party to Kryzan, in an attempt to give her two ballot lines.
The GOP went to Court and got it stopped, but their victory was by virtue of a ruling that might fly in the face of what they may be attempting to do now.
“This isn’t a race for dog catcher, this is for the U.S. Congress," said Niagara County GOP Chair Richard Andres, in noting the importance of the decisions at hand.
But running Collins for dog catcher – or any other office – might get him off the ballot, under a law which prohibits candidates from running for two offices at once.
"There are other offices that he could be potentially nominated for," Langworthy said.
The other option to remove his name from the ballot would be if Collins were to die.
While expressing confidence that the GOP will find a way, Langworthy concedes that New York’s election laws “are the most litigated in the nation”.
James Gardner, a distinguished professor at the University at Buffalo who specializes in constitutional and election law, went so far as to describe New York’s statutes regarding elections in particular as “arcane and stingy." At the same time, however, he thinks the GOP could have a legitimate case for Collins’ removal from the ballot.
"There's a rule of statutory interpretation that says you shouldn't interpret a statute to require stupid things,” said Gardner. “And it would be very stupid if New York state law required resorting to some kind of subterfuge to remove a candidate from the ballot after he has essentially withdrawn his candidacy."