Indicted Republican Rep. Chris Collins will remain on the ballot in November despite suspending his re-election bid last month, his attorney confirmed Monday, citing possible legal challenges that could result from efforts to remove Collins from the ballot.
"Because of the protracted and uncertain nature of any legal effort to replace Congressman Collins, we do not see a path allowing Congressman Collins to be replaced on the ballot," said Mark Braden, Collins' attorney.
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The Buffalo-area congressman faces charges of securities fraud, wire fraud and false statements related to alleged insider trading. Collins has rejected the charges as "meritless" and vowed to fight them. However, he last month announced that he would suspend his re-election campaign, saying he believed his decision was in the "best interests" of his constituents.
In light of Collins' legal troubles, national and state Republican officials had hoped to replace him on the ballot and believed there was a path forward to doing so, including by nominating Collins for another office.
Erie County Republican Committee chairman Nick Langworthy said Monday that there was a "crystal clear way" to replace Collins, but that it hinged on his cooperation. Langworthy said Collins and his lawyers expressed concerns that litigation by Democrats could come to bear on Collins' other legal proceedings.
Now, Collins' decision to move forward with his re-election could put his solidly Republican seat in jeopardy.
"This is a big curveball," Langworthy said.
Meredith Kelly, communications director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said "the stakes just got a whole lot higher" for the election with Collins remaining on the ballot, adding that the race between Collins and Democrat Nate McMurray would present "the clearest of choices."
Collins' campaign has more than $1.3 million on hand to compete this fall, and Langworthy said he hopes the congressman will put it to use, adding, "I think it's very important that this seat remains in Republican hands." But he conceded that Collins' ongoing legal battles could be a "distraction" that complicates Republican efforts to hold his seat.
President Donald Trump recently expressed concern about the political ramifications of Collins' legal battle, suggesting in a tweet earlier this month that the Department of Justice should have held off on charging Collins until after the midterm elections. The race is "now in doubt because there is not enough time" before Election Day, the President added.
However, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Steve Stivers recently told reporters that he does not share the President's concerns about the timing of the charges.