WASHINGTON – Nick Stankevich, the Genesee County businessman vying for the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican Rep. Chris Collins, came to the Capitol Tuesday and spent 45 minutes meeting with his GOP rival in what both sides described as a cordial meeting.
"While Congressman Collins disagrees with Mr. Stankevich’s liberal policies, the Congressman appreciated the opportunity to share thoughts and exchange ideas on a wide range of issues," Collins' spokesman, Sarah Minkel, said. "Though they agreed to disagree on many issues, this was a very professional dialogue.”
Meantime, Stankevich said: "It was a very productive meeting ...We were talking about a few different issues that matter to voters and constituents in Western New York."
Stankevich had been seeking a meeting with Collins, which Collins said had to take place in Washington. And while the two men agreed that their get-together went well, they disagreed not only on some issues, but also on some of what was said at the meeting.
Collins told Stankevich that he supports a Republican-backed bill aimed at improving the National Instant Criminal Background Check System for gun purchases.
But Stankevich came away thinking that Collins expresses support for universal background checks, including at gun shows, which is a big step beyond what the Republican bill would do. Minkel confirmed that Collins had not meant to express any kind of support for background checks beyond what that GOP proposal would do.
The two men also discussed, but disagreed on, immigration. Stankevich said Collins talked about increasing security – including a wall of some sort – at the southern border, while Stankevich stressed improving the system by which American farmers can hire temporary laborers from other countries.
Stankevich is running against Grand Island Supervisor Nate McMurray for the Democratic nomination to run against Collins in New York's 27th district.
McMurray said the meeting was Collins' attempt to "sow division and promote controversy" in the Democratic party in the district.
"It's odd," McMurray said, noting that other Democrats, such as himself and Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz, have been trying to get Collins to meet with them in front of voters, not in private.
Noting that Collins has long refused to hold a town hall meeting with constituents, McMurray said: "We should be trying to get this guy in a public setting where he can be held accountable."