Democrats Contemplating Lawsuit to Keep Collins on Ballot

Collins could come off ballot by end of next week

Mike Baggerman
August 16, 2018 - 1:25 pm

FILE - This Aug. 8, 2018 file photo shows Republican U.S. Rep. Christopher Collins as he leaves federal court in New York. In an about-face, Collins says he will suspend his re-election campaign after insider-trading indictment. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) - While local republicans are doing everything they can to take Congressman Chris Collins off the ballot in November following his indictment and suspension of his re-election campaign, democrats are exploring legal avenues to keep him on the ballot in November. 

"Election law is very clear," Judith Hunter, Chairperson of the Livingston County democrats, said. "The federal ballots were set way back in April. You don't get to just call a do-over when things get inconvenient. Chris Collins has been under an ethical cloud for a long time and (republicans) made sure to clear the way for him to be their candidate."

Hunter said she does not have "any specific information" to give on whether local democrats would file a lawsuit should republicans successfully remove Collins from the ballot. 

"I cannot imagine that this situation won't end up in litigation whichever way it goes," Hunter added. 

She said that republicans are trying to pull a rabbit out of a hat.

If Collins were to either accept a nomination to a different political office, move out of state, or die, he could be removed from the ballot. However, Hunter said it's not that easy.

"There is case law that says if you move out of state, that doesn't matter, you're still on the federal ballot," she said.  "When Tom DeLay was indicted back before the 2006 election, he tried to move his residence. Federal court would not accept that."

DeLay, a republican out of Texas, resigned after an indictment on campaign finance charges. A federal judge in Texas ruled that DeLay had to stay on the ballot, despite his attempt to move. That was determined based on Texas state law. 

Hunter said that if a similar incident happened with local democrats, she would understand why legal avenues would be pursued, but she said the law is the law.

"It applies to everyone," she said. "Not just republicans and democrats. Everyone."

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown is also the state chairman of the democratic party. While state democrats primarily deals with state matters, Brown said he suspects there will be a number of entities that would challenge the ruling should Collins remain.

"At some point I could have some role," Brown said. "We haven't made a determination as a state party to contest that. That could change."

Republicans leaders in Western New York hope to have a new candidate to fill the role by the end of next week. 

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