The 27th district, which includes large swathes of the rural areas of Western New York, and which favored President Trump over Hillary Clinton by more than 24 points, was always an unlikely pickup for Democrats, even in 2018, when a “blue wave” of greater or lesser strength seems probable. Nonetheless, Republican Congressman Chris Collins is facing a strong challenge from liberal Democrat Nate McMurray, and the solidly conservative voters of Collins' district are wavering. Why?
Some might suspect that the closeness of the polls in the 27th district is owning to doubts about the leadership of President Trump, or a sense of exhaustion with the constant drumbeat of scandals – or “scandals” – affecting the Trump administration. Such is not the case. Western New York Republicans have remained supportive of the president, and his obvious successes – in lowering taxes, in fighting illegal immigration, in expanding export opportunities for farmers, and in winning confirmation for two outstanding new Justices of the Supreme Court – more than outweigh his missteps, in the eyes of voters.
No, the reason why McMurray is surging, and Collins is struggling, is that Congressman Collins was indicted in August on multiple counts of insider trading. Initially, he suspended his re-election campaign and cooperated with efforts to remove his name from the ballot, but he then reversed course and decided to fight for his seat. Western New Yorkers were understandably bemused.
Now, the district's voters have a difficult choice to make: will they support Nate McMurray, a liberal Democrat who doesn't share their values, and who presumably would fall in line with a Nancy Pelosi speakership and the impeachment of President Trump, or will they support Chris Collins, who may or may not be found guilty of serious financial crimes, and therefore may or may not be capable of serving in Congress? It's a political “Sophie's choice”.
In reality, though, Western New Yorkers can rest easy that, despite his legal predicament, Congressman Chris Collins is still the better man for the job. For one thing, voters should keep in mind that every American is innocent until proven guilty, and Collins has not yet had his day in court. The charges against him may come to naught, therefore, and he may be vindicated. In that case, he can continue to represent the people of the 27th congressional district with the same dogged devotion and unstinting patriotism that he has shown since joining Congress in 2013.
Voters should recall that Collins has been an outstanding advocate for his rural constituents, supporting fair treatment for Western New York farmers, U.S. energy independence, and more opportunity and less regulation for small businesses. Indeed, his business savvy is what made him such an outstanding County Executive in Erie County, and it is what motivated him to endorse Donald Trump for president in 2016, before any other sitting member of Congress had the temerity to do so. Collins saw the potential in candidate Trump, and he got in on the ground floor of the Trump revolution. His vision and courage, in themselves, are ample reason to retain him in the House of Representatives.
On the other hand, Collins may be found guilty of all or some of the crimes with which he is charged. In that case, however, if the voters of the 27th district have, in the meantime, re-elected him, they will face no long-term embarrassment or inconvenience. On the contrary, Collins will either resign or he will be removed from office by his colleagues in the House, paving the way for a special election to fill his seat. If that were to happen, local Republicans would choose a new candidate to carry the GOP banner, and presumably that Republican would win hands-down.
The worst of all available options is personified in the Democratic candidate, Nate McMurray. This November, McMurray could win by default, and by obscuring his leftist ideology so as to hoodwink the people of Western New York. He could, incredibly, represent one of New York's most conservative districts, and he could even be the crucial vote to elect Nancy Pelosi as speaker, or to proceed with articles of impeachment against President Trump, on whatever contrived basis Robert Mueller and the Democratic caucus can cook up.
That would be a tragedy indeed, as well as a miscarriage of democracy. The voters of the 27th district may have their doubts about Chris Collins, but they have no doubt that the Democratic Party – the party of open borders, of high taxes, of political correctness, of socialism, and increasingly of mob rule – is unfit to lead this country.
They should vote accordingly. They should re-elect Congressman Chris Collins.
Dr. Nicholas L. Waddy is an Associate Professor of History at SUNY Alfred and blogs at: www.waddyisright.com. He appears weekly on the Newsmaker Show on WLEA 1480.