What's next for New York's 27th Congressional District?

Collins stays as representative; McMurray up for re-election next year

Mike Baggerman
November 20, 2018 - 7:58 pm

Nate McMurray hugs supporters after conceding to Congressman Chris Collins in 2018 midterm election. November 7, 2018 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) – Chris Collins will be the victor in New York’s 27th Congressional District after Nate McMurray, who needed to collect roughly three times as many absentee votes as Collins, only collected 59 percent of the absentee and emergency ballots in Tuesday’s count of those ballots.

McMurray released a statement where he did not concede to Collins. He said he plans to meet with his legal team and have something to say Monday.

Collins campaign spokeswoman Natalie Baldassarre released a statement on behalf of the campaign praising the election teams of the eight counties in NY-27 for their work in a “fair and proper election”, while adding that the re-elected congressman has returned to work and looks forward to doing the work of the people.

We spoke with Erie County Democratic Party Chairman Jeremy Zellner who said they were “excited” about the race that was run by McMurray.

“I think Nate McMurray touched on a lot of important topics,” Zellner said. “For anyone to have taken this race – Regardless of the indictment, an R-plus-11 district - to come within 1,000 votes is remarkable. Nate McMurray and his team need to be commended for that. They did a very, very good job on this campaign.”

Zellner said he doesn’t think he’s heard the last of Nate McMurray but did not say whether or not McMurray is in plans for future seats in local, county, state, or federal offices. McMurray, the current Town of Grand Island Supervisor, will be up for re-election for the local seat next November.

We asked Zellner if he thought the 27th congressional district could ever be held by another democrat again, knowing that McMurray failed to defeat Collins despite the congressman’s indictment on August 8 for insider trading and his scheduled trial date in 2020.

“I think what it shows you is the partisan divide in the country,” Zellner said. “There are just some people who will not ever vote for a certain party under any circumstances. Whether someone is indicted…It is such that people won’t even listen to the other side. They’re just going stay on whatever line it is that they’re running.”

Inroads were made in the district, according to the chairman.

“We’ve got some strong town democratic committees that are being built,” Zellner said. “Many new activists that are getting involved that were never getting involved before. Some of the rural counties in the seven other counties are more organized today than they ever were before this race. Those are the positive takeaways from this.”

Zellner said he hopes future redistricting allow the Western New York to retain its three representatives but that he hopes it will be less conservative than before.

Prior to the counting of absentee ballots, McMurray continued to solicit funds from his supporters for Act Blue, a political action committee, for the purposes of a recount. He said on Monday’s edition of A New Morning that he raised money for the recount fund because they had to see how this count was done.

“If there’s disputes we have, we want to go back,” McMurray said. “That’s what the recount is for. To make sure a vote wasn’t cast improperly. That’s painful to do but it’s my job to make sure every single vote is counted appropriately. Through the recount process we’d actually go through and scrub those ballots to make sure they’re okay.”

McMurray said that they will not pursue a recount if the vote disparity is so far off it is unreasonable and it's unknown at this time whether McMurray will still call for a recount since he trails by over 1,000 votes.

“We think we have to, at least, do the right thing and prepare,” McMurray said Monday.

Zellner, who is also the democratic commissioner for the Erie County Board of Elections, said that a recount is unlikely in this race.

“In order to have a recount, you have to show there is some kind of machine malfunction,” Zellner added. “We’ve been very open with the campaigns and the rest of the board of elections commissioners about what that threshold looks like. The campaigns understand that. The judge is overseeing this and the judge made it very clear what you need to do for a recount. I don’t think we’ve reached that threshold.”

The final canvass of the votes is on Wednesday and officials should finalize that Collins won the race. McMurray initially indicated plans to hold a press conference on Wednesday but told WBEN that he will be speaking to his attorneys and releasing a statement on Monday.

I want to take this moment to thank Supervisor Nate McMurray for his extraordinary campaign in the 27th Congressional District and for the many sacrifices of the past six months.  

Through the McMurray campaign we welcomed many new volunteers and activists into the Democratic Party.  The Western New York Labor Community also poured its heart and soul into Campaign 2018 and we owe them a debt of gratitude as well.  Nate’s message upheld the values that define our community and our party, and that spirit will continue to inspire us as we look toward next year’s local elections and 2020.  

Here at ECDC, we continue to grow our party by welcoming hundreds of new Committee Members and are more unified than ever before. And with our new majorities in the state legislature and US House of Representatives, we will fight for ethics reform, healthcare, Labor rights and civil liberties for all Americans.  We need to make voting easier in NYS with early voting, no-excuse absentee balloting, and an end to fusion voting.  

I am also proud of the professionalism of our Election staff and our clean, transparent canvassing process, which ensures that every vote is always counted in every election. 

As we head towards Thanksgiving later this week, I could not be more thankful for our hard-working group of activists or more optimistic about the future of WNY.

-Chair Jeremy Zellner

Collins, one of the first members of Congress to support Trump's presidential run, is scheduled for trial in early 2020 on charges he leaked information about a biopharmaceutical company that allowed his son and others to avoid nearly $800,000 in stock losses. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of insider trading and lying to the FBI.

Collins initially dropped out of the race after the August indictment, then restarted his campaign a month later as Republican leaders were deliberating who would replace him on the ballot.

"The stakes are too high to allow the radical left to take control of this seat in Congress," he said at the time.

McMurray, town supervisor of Grand Island, saw his campaign pick up steam amid Collins' legal troubles. He reported raising more than a half-million dollars in three months and, with polls showing a close race, landed on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's "Red to Blue" list for national support.

Before Collins' arrest, the incumbent's re-election was seen as all but certain, and McMurray's campaign struggled to attract the attention of donors and the national party.

A conviction would likely lead to Collins' resignation from Congress. The most serious charge carries a potential prison term of up to 20 years.

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