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Political ascent of ‘Big Chris’ Grant runs into obstacle

WASHINGTON – In the offices of Rep. Chris Collins, Christopher M. Grant is known as “Big Chris” – a tall, hulking figure with a big voice, a big laugh and big ambitions.

Now, for reasons that are yet to be explained, Grant – Collins’ chief of staff and political consigliere for the better part of a decade – may have landed in big trouble.

Federal and state law enforcement officers raided Grant’s home in Akron on Thursday as part of a state corruption investigation that is also targeting former Erie County Democratic Chairman G. Steven Pigeon and former Buffalo First Deputy Mayor Steven M. Casey.

It’s a shocking political development that targets two Democratic allies – Pigeon and Casey – along with a young but seasoned Republican political operative with a partisan reputation for being tough and for winning.

Grant, 34, currently serves as chief of staff to Collins, R-Clarence, which is just the latest chapter in a long relationship between the two men. In fact, many in the Buffalo political community credit Grant with molding Collins – a blunt-speaking businessman – into a candidate who won a race for Erie County executive, as well as two races for Congress.

Grant could not be reached to comment, but Collins leaped to the defense of his longtime aide.

“This is a complete shock and news to me,” he said of Grant.

“I know of no reason they would be investigating my chief of staff, and I don’t expect there would be any wrongdoing, but like any investigation, it has to play itself out.”

Grant played a central role in Collins’ 2012 race for Congress, in which he ousted Democrat Kathy Hochul – now New York’s lieutenant governor – in New York’s 27th District.

Grant also served as chief of staff when Collins was Erie County executive from 2008 to 2011, after having spearheaded the businessman’s first successful political race in 2007.

While working in County Hall and after Collins lost his re-election bid, Grant also served as president and CEO of Herd Solutions, a political consulting firm.

According to Grant’s LinkedIn profile, he served as chief strategist for 20 local, state and federal campaigns during that time, specializing in electing Republicans in Democratic districts.

Grant “created, drafted, designed, wrote and produced more than 100 individual pieces and 10 million overall pieces of mail for races throughout the country,” his LinkedIn profile said.

In addition, Grant produced television ads and served as a campaign spokesman, according to the profile.

The LinkedIn profile indicates that Grant gave up that consulting work after Collins entered Congress in January 2013.

Earlier in his career, Grant served as a legislative assistant in the Erie County Legislature, an attorney for Lustig & Brown LLP and senior policy adviser to the Erie County Republican Committee.

A graduate of Clarence High School and Canisius College, Grant earned a law degree from the University at Buffalo in 2005.