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Stankevich promises Democratic primary for right to oppose Collins

A Democratic primary for the right to oppose Rep. Chris Collins appears to be taking shape following this week’s promise by a Genesee County businessman to challenge the choice of party leaders.

Nicholas R. Stankevich says he will face Grand Island Supervisor Nathan D. McMurray in a June 26 primary throughout the eight-county district, though he must first collect 1,250 valid signatures on designating petitions. He said this week “the people of this district deserve the freedom to choose their candidate.”

“You deserve the freedom of a primary, and you deserve a rural candidate who lives in the district,” Stankevich said in a statement aimed at Democratic voters and alluding to the fact that McMurray lives outside the district. “I’ve shown you, my neighbors, that I have a plan to beat Chris Collins come November, and it starts with you.”

Stankevich would enter the primary to determine an opponent against an incumbent backed by money and registration advantage in New York State’s most Republican district. He also faces long odds in defeating McMurray, who on Monday gained the endorsement of the Erie County Democratic organization, following similar support from Democratic leaders in Niagara, Livingston and Wyoming counties.

Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy J. Zellner said Tuesday that Democratic leaders from throughout the district are coalescing behind McMurray. He called the endorsed candidate’s support “formidable.”

“Our goal is to defeat Chris Collins and our hope is that Nate will do the right thing,” he said, adding that party leaders would prefer to avoid a primary.

Zellner, who is also Erie County’s Democratic elections commissioner, noted that candidates for federal office begin circulating designating petitions next week in preparation for the June 26 primary.

“It’s not easy,” he said. “It’s cold out there and people don’t like to open their doors for anyone.”

Stankevich, whose website says he helps operate his family’s bed and breakfast inn in Mumford, recently returned to Western New York following a business career in California. He earned a bachelor's degree in natural resource management and business administration from the University of Florida, and an MBA from Pepperdine University.

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