Republican leaders expect to soon pick Collins’ successor on the ballot
Ortt, Hawley are both pursuing position along with about a dozen others
CARLTON – It will be an intense next 10 days for Republican Party leaders in the eight counties that are in the 27th Congressional District.
They will be interviewing about 10 candidates this week who want to replace Chris Collins as the GOP candidate on the ballot in November. The Republican leaders want to narrow the field to three candidates by the end of the week and then, in about 10 days from now, pick a final candidate.
“It’s very complicated,” Ed Morgan, the Orleans County Republican Party chairman, told Republicans on Sunday during the summer picnic at the Archer’s Club.
Collins suspended his re-election campaign after being indicted on Aug. 8 for insider trading. He faces charges of securities fraud, wire fraud and making false statements to the FBI.
Morgan said the congressman should be considered innocent until proven guilty. Collins has suspended his re-election campaign, and Republican leaders want to remove his name from the ballot.
It’s too late in the process for the usual candidate nominations or primaries. That leaves it to the eight county chairmen to find a replacement, but Morgan acknowledged the Democratic Party leaders are expected to mount a legal challenge to keep Collins on the ballot.
“All of this could go haywire because the Democrats will take it to federal court and the judge could decide in October that Chris Collins has to stay on the ballot,” Morgan said.
If a sitting state legislator is picked to replace Collins on the ballot, the Republicans would then have to find another candidate to run for that state seat.
“It could be a trickle-down effect where we might have to fill other seats,” Morgan said.
It would also be risky for a state legislator to pursue the Congressional spot because a judge could decide Collins is the candidate. State Assemblyman Steve Hawley and State Sen. Robert Ortt both want to be considered to take Collins’ place on the ballot. They can’t be on the ballot for two positions. They could be picked to be the Congressional candidate only to have Collins stay on the ballot, and then they couldn’t run for the Assembly or State Senate.
Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw stopped at the Orleans County Republican Party picnic on Sunday. He doesn’t have an election in November for his current position. He could run for Congress this November without requiring Republican leaders to find a replacement for him to run as comptroller.
“I don’t have an election so there would be nothing lost,” he said about state legislators who would have to relinquish their position. “I’m the best bet and I’m the safest bet.”
Mychajliw is a former investigative news reporter in Buffalo.
“My job was holding politicians accountable, both Democrats and Republicans,” he said about his previous career as a reporter.
He has already been elected comptroller three times in Erie County, where Democrats outnumber Republicans.
“I’m battle tested,” he said. “I’m ready to get in a brawl with Nate McMurray.”
McMurray is backed by the Democratic Party. He is the current Grand Island town supervisor. His campaign has been given more media attention since Collins was arrested, and the McMurray said his fundraising in the few days after Collins’ arrest topped the totals in the previous months.
McMurray and Democratic Party leaders say Republicans shouldn’t be able to swap a different candidate for Collins so late in the political calendar.
“We’re going ahead with the process because of time,” Morgan told Republicans at the picnic. “Our opponents couldn’t have picked a better time to put us behind the 8 Ball and I have no doubt in my mind they did that.”
Hawley, the local assemblyman for more than 12 years, is pursuing the Congressional seat because he said he has been encouraged to pursue the position by so many business owners, residents and organizations such as Unshackle Upstate and the National Federation of Independent Business.
“That’s why I’m interested,” he said. “It’s about the people and businesses of Western New York.”
He said his background as a small business owner with his insurance company and also from his days in farming make him a good fit to represent the district, which includes all of Orleans, Genesee, Wyoming and Livingston and portions of Erie, Monroe, Niagara and Ontario counties.
It’s a heavily agriculture district. Hawley said he already knows the farming issues and other concerns in the rural communities.
“I know how things work because I’ve been there,” he said. “Right now we need some stability and calmness (in the Congressional position).”
Hawley said he would hold frequent town hall meetings if he was elected to Congress. Collins has been criticized for not holding those type of events.
“It’s about being open and transparent with the people,” Hawley said.
Ortt has been in the State Senate for about four years with a district that includes Orleans, most of Niagara and the western portion of Monroe counties. Normally, candidates for Congress spend at least a year working on the campaign.
“Most congressional races are marathons,” Ortt said. “But this is a sprint over 60 to 70 days.”
If he is picked the candidate he said he would be all over the district.
“Whoever works the hardest” will likely win, Ortt said.
After meeting with Republicans Sunday at the Archer’s Club, Ortt, Hawley and Mychajliw left to see Republicans in Warsaw, Wyoming County. Then there was another GOP event later in the evening in Niagara County.