GOP Plans to Replace Indicted Congressman on New York Ballot

(Bloomberg) -- Republicans plan to use a procedural move to take an indicted New York congressman off the November ballot for the House by making him a candidate for a town clerkship, according to a GOP official.

Representative Chris Collins, indicted last week on insider trading charges, will be replaced on the ballot by another Republican interested in the seat. Two other Republicans have already said they want to run, and it will be up to the county party leaders to pick the candidate, said the GOP official, who asked for anonymity to discuss party strategy.

Collins has denied any wrongdoing and initially said he’d stay in the race for his upstate New York seat. But over the weekend he said he’s suspending his campaign, prompting the GOP effort to get another candidate’s name on the ballot.

Collins had already been renominated for the House seat in the June 26 GOP primary, and under state law could only be removed if he’s listed as a candidate for another office.

Collins’s withdrawal doesn’t give Democrat Nate McMurray, the town supervisor of Grand Island, an automatic shot at flipping the seat in a conservative district in western New York where President Donald Trump won by 24 percentage points in 2016. But it gives Democrats an unexpected opportunity as they try to win at least 23 Republican seats to gain a majority in the House.

“I feel we have a better shot than ever to win,” McMurray said. “I’m excited about the new interest and the vitality we’re feeling.”

Collins, 68, and his son were indicted on charges of insider trading related to the shares of an Australian biotechnology firm, Innate Immunotherapeutics Ltd. The indictment says Collins, one of the company’s largest shareholders and a member of its board, tipped his son to negative drug trial results, prompting the son to sell his shares and alert others who did the same. The stock price tanked after the results were made public.

Collins said over the weekend that after “extensive deliberations” with family and friends he decided to step aside.

Both of the Republicans vying to take Collins’s place on November’s ballot have cast themselves as strong Trump supporters. Stefan Mychajliw, the Erie County Comptroller, said that he, like Collins, would be Trump’s “biggest champion on Capitol Hill.”

“I’ve got the fire in my belly and the fight to take it to the Democrats,” Mychajliw said in an interview with CNN. “We cannot let this seat go into the Democratic fold. Make no mistake if Democrats win the House they are going to impeach President Trump on day one and we cannot let job killing Democrats and liberal extremists take that seat.”

Carl Paladino, a businessman from Buffalo and a former candidate for governor also tweeted Saturday “I’m all in! #NY27.”

McMurray said that it will be tough to win over conservative voters, but he said he’s an “independent voice and an independent mind.” He has long said he won’t support minority leader Nancy Pelosi of California as speaker because the party needs a new direction.

Collins was the first Republican congressman to endorse Trump, largely because of his protectionist views on trade. Yet McMurray said responsible trade deals are vital for the district’s manufacturers, farmer and dairy producers to open foreign markets.

“You don’t take as a pawn in a trade war the people who are already hurt the worst,” McMurray said.

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