Three days after his arrest on charges of insider trading and a defiant pledge to keep up his battle for re-election, U.S. Rep. Christopher Collins announced via Twitter that he would suspend his campaign, effectively ending his bid to continue representing the 27th Congressional District.
“After extensive discussions with my family and my friends over the last few days, I have decided it is in the best interests of the constituents of NY-27, the Republican Party and President (Donald) Trump’s agenda for me to suspend my campaign,” the three-term congressman said on Saturday in a written statement.
His move presents a challenge for state Republicans, with election law spelling out a very narrow path of possibility for removing Collins’ name from November’s ballot. The only ways to be removed are death, accepting nomination for a separate office or moving out of state.
Collins could be, for example, nominated to a town clerk position in his district, which wouldn’t necessarily require him to live within the town. And he would likely be nominated on a third-party line to reduce his chances of winning a position he doesn’t want to hold.
Bill Reilich, chairman of the Monroe County GOP said county leaders in the district will meet in coming days to explore their options.
“In light of the allegations levied against Congressman Chris Collins, it is our belief that with so many important decisions being made in Washington we need a representative who can focus on continued efforts to improve our country,” he said in a written statement. “While the truth will be determined in a court of law, to have someone facing serious criminal charges continue to campaign is unfair to the hardworking people of the New York 27th Congressional District.”
Reilich said leadership across the district is evaluating “several highly qualified individuals” who could be their pick as a replacement candidate.
Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw was the first Republican to publically throw his hat in the ring, sending a statement Saturday morning saying he could “not stand by and let this critical Congressional seat fall into the hands of a radical left wing candidate who will be a vote to impeach President Trump.”
There is no shortage of other potentials interested in the race, among them state Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer and Assemblymen Ray Walter and David DiPietro, all of the Buffalo area.
David Bellavia, a decorated Iraq War veteran, co-founder of Vets for Freedom and a radio show host on WBEN (AM-930) in Buffalo also expressed in interest via Tweet on Saturday morning. Bellavia lost the GOP primary for the 27th district to Collins in 2012.
The eight Republican county chairs within Collins’ district will decide who replaces him on the ballot, with Erie County GOP Chair Nick Langworthy having the most influence.
Collins, his son and the father of his son's fiancée were criminally charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for New York’s Southern District on Wednesday with insider trading, centered on the stock of an Australian biotech firm long touted by Collins, and for which he served on the board of directors.
Allegations are that when Collins learned that the small drug maker's only product — an experimental treatment for second-stage multiple sclerosis — had failed its clinical trials he shared with his son Cameron Collins so he could sell off his shares and avoid potential financial disaster before the news was shared with the public. In turn, Cameron Collins is accused of sharing that same insider information with others so they could also sell their stocks.
On Wednesday evening, following his arraignment and release on $500,000 bail, Collins delivered a seven-minute statement to the press in a Buffalo hotel ballroom.
"The charges that have been levied against me are meritless and I will mount a vigorous defense in court to clear my name," Collins said.
In his statement on Saturday, Collins said he will serve until the end of his term “to assure that our community maintains its vote in Congress to support President Trump’s agenda to create jobs, eliminate regulations, reduce the size of government, address immigration and lower taxes.”
Includes reporting by Albany Bureau staff writer Jon Campbell.