Chris Collins
Credit: Yahoo/Flickr

Here is what Rep. Chris Collins of Buffalo, New York, did wrong:

Last month, federal prosecutors charged Mr. Collins, who sits on the board of Innate Immunotherapeutics, a drug company based in Australia, with providing inside information to his son and others that the company had failed a crucial drug test. His son, his son’s fiancée and his son’s father-in-law all sold shares.

That’s a crime. Chris Collins is quite likely to be convicted for that crime. For this reason, after a brief period of indecision and defiance, he announced that he would not seek another term in the United States Congress. The problem was that it was too late to take his name off the ballot. Under New York State law, the only way Collins’s name could be replaced is if he died or he sought some other office.

Another feature of the Empire State’s unique election laws is that voters don’t get to choose the party’s replacement candidate in a primary. Instead, the local county party chairmen get to do that, so ambitious local Republicans began jockeying to win over the support of these chairmen. And the party bigwigs began searching for some small local office Collins could seek on the fraudulent pretext that he was stepping down from Congress to be the next dog catcher for Genesee County or something equivalent.

This was always a rather desperate gambit. The seat should be safe for the GOP since New York’s 27th congressional district voted for Donald Trump sixty percent to thirty-five percent in the 2016 presidential election.  In fact, Chris Collins was the first member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump’s campaign.  But it turned out that Collins didn’t have the stomach for the subterfuge that would be required to get his name off the ballot.

Mr. Collins opted to stay on the ballot on the advice of lawyers who said his removal — a Byzantine procedure governed by New York’s complex election laws — would most likely face a Democratic lawsuit, and would muddle the election for his replacement, ultimately leaving the Western New York seat vulnerable to Democrats, according to one of the Republicans.

It seems likely that Collins will lose his reelection bid now that he’s already announced his retirement under the cloud of a felony indictment. If he does, the new congressperson from the 27th district will be Nate McMurray who presently serves as the town supervisor for Grand Island.

This strikes me as a dishonorable solution for both Chris Collins and the local GOP.  Collins should not seek reelection because he’s shamed himself and his community by committing a significant crime. The GOP should not want him on the ballot because they should have more integrity than that.

But at least we won’t see Chris Collins running for dog catcher.

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Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at