McMurray, supporters are ready to pull off upset on Tuesday
‘This is not just a campaign, it’s a community building experience,’ – Nate McMurray
BATAVIA – Nate McMurray made campaign stops in all eight counties in the 27th Congressional District this weekend. He was in Medina and Albion on Saturday, visiting small businesses and knocking on doors.
The sight of a vibrant downtown in Medina inspired McMurray, who said he was also impressed by Albion’s Courthouse Square and historic business district.
“This district is the best place in the world, but we need more prosperity,” McMurray said this morning at Tim Hortons in Batavia. “I got a lot of hope in Medina. We need to have more of that.”
McMurray and his big team of volunteers are making a final push to the election on Tuesday, when he attempts what seemed nearly impossible only a few months: win as a Democrat in a very Republican district against a well-funded incumbent, Chris Collins.
The race is close. Some polls give McMurray a slight edge and others show Collins with a small advantage.
McMurray likes his chances on election day. He credited volunteers for going door-to-door to get out his message that is focused on the middle class, including healthcare for everyone. “People are sick and tired of party politics,” he said this morning. “I’m for the party of the Middle Class.”
He has been going to diners, parades, homes and other venues, including driving a car in the Demolition Derby at Erie County in August, to get his “Fight Like Hell” message out and meet voters.
“I have learned from the people of this district,” he said. “People have been pessimistic and dismissive of the leadership.”
If he is elected, he said he will have a bigger burden to prove himself, especially among Republicans. He welcomes that opportunity.
If Collins is elected, McMurray sees him as a lameduck congressman stripped of power and consumed with his legal strategy after he was arrested on 11 federal charges related to insider trading. His trial is scheduled to start in February 2020. That would be a major distraction for the congressman if Collins is re-elected.
McMurray was motivated to challenge Collins back in October 2017 after reading a report from the Office of Congressional Ethics, which said Collins may have broken rules and possibly the federal law with his advocacy for a biotech firm.
Collins was acting to benefit Innate Immunotherapeutics Limited, a biotech company he is invested in, and was sharing private information to get investments in the firm, according to the report.
“He had problems from the get-go,” McMurray said today. “I read the report and it is damning.”
Still, no charges were filed against Collins and he seemed to have smooth sailing to re-election. McMurray won the Democratic Primary and most thought he was an extreme longshot. The Democratic National Committee wasn’t interested in helping McMurray.
But things changed on Aug. 8, the day Collins was arrested in 11 federal charges related to insider trading for sharing information about Innate. Collins’ son Cameron and Cameron future father-in-law are accused of then unloading stock in the company. They are also charged as codefendants with Collins.
McMurray has picked up some support from the DNC as the race tightened, but he said it remains a grass roots effort driven by volunteers and the candidate.
“This is not just a campaign but a community building experience,” he told supporters at Tim Hortons.
Michael Plitt, the Genesee County Democratic Party chairman, said McMurray has energized the party.
“This is a people-powered campaign,” Plitt said this morning at Tm Hortons. “This is a district that no one thought a Democrat could ever win. It’s by the sheer work from Nate and people over here trying to get him to the finish line.”
There were 37 volunteers out knocking on doors for McMurray in Genesee County this weekend, which Plitt said was a record.
Those volunteers hear from some Republicans they are concerned about a growing federal deficit, and the criminal charges against Collins, Plitt said.
McMurray’s frequent visits to the rural communities, where he welcomes questions from anyone, also is stark contrast to Collins, Plitt said.
“Nate is so accessible compared to Collins,” Plitt said. “Chris Collins will only go to controlled events.”
McMurray shares his personal story of a humble upbringing that he said makes him sensitive to Americans struggling to survive. McMurray’s father died of cancer when McMurray was 4, leaving behind seven children.
McMurray praised the public school system for giving him a chance to eventually become a lawyer. He graduated from North Tonawanda Senior High, and then took night classes at Erie Community College. He graduated from SUNY Buffalo, and then Hastings College of Law in California, cleaning toilets to help pay his bills. A Fulbright Scholar, he earned a Master’s Degree in Law from Tsinghua University in Beijing, China.
He decided to run for Congress when he already has a good job as a lawyer for Delaware North and also as Grand Island town supervisor.
Dorothy Avery of Bergen appreciates that McMurray is taking a chance in his run for Congress, and has made it such a close race.
“I want to have a representative who cares about every person, regardless of their registration and I really believe Nate cares,” Avery said at Tim Hortons today. “He has put everything on the line in this race.”
She met McMurray at the Batavia Tim Hortons back in February, when he was in the early stages of his campaign.
Avery, 52, has been going door to door for McMurray, even knocking on doors in Orleans and Niagara counties to help get out the votes.
Nikki Calhoun has also been active volunteer for McMurray. Earlier she was Nicholas Stankevich’s campaign manager until he dropped out of the race. She said McMurray has united the Democrats in the eight counties in the push to unseat Collins.
“There has been a real coming together,” she said. “It’s been nice to see the entire region of communities come together for a common purpose.”
Collins has stayed in the race after suspending his campaign soon after his arrest. He has been on the campaign trail, attending Republican rallies and some other events. He said it’s critical the seat stay Republican to support President Donald Trump’s agenda.
“In Monroe & Livingston Counties today meeting with voters ahead of Tuesday’s election,” he tweeted on Saturday. “#NY27 – If you support President Trump’s agenda, you must #VoteRed on November 6 to protect our healthcare, our borders, and our fundamental right to bear arms.”
Collins’ campaign has been very active with mailers and television ads attacking McMurray, who Collins said would be part of “Nancy Pelosi’s liberal mob.”
McMurray today said he wouldn’t support Pelosi as speaker if Democrats regain control of the House.
He said his focus is ending corruption in government, pushing for healthcare for everyone, and better jobs and fair wages for middle class workers.
He told people today at Tim Hortons he isn’t just swinging by because he is campaigning. He vowed to keep returning to the small towns if he is elected.
He also said he has lost 30 pounds during the whirlwind campaign.
“It has been an opportunity of a lifetime to run for Congress,” he said today. “It’s been fun. I like people and I like going places. I could write a tour book of the 27th district. I’ve been everywhere. With this campaign, I don’t know what else I could do.”