Rep. Chris Collins and Erie County Republican Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy – normally among the region's strongest supporters of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump – Thursday said Trump was wrong to raise the possibility that he won't respect the results of the Nov. 8 election.
Meanwhile, top local Democrats came together to denounce Trump, who said in a debate a day earlier that he would "keep you in suspense" about whether he would accept the election results.
"I certainly wish Mr. Trump hadn’t said what he said, but of course," said Collins, R-Clarence, to a Buffalo News reporter Thursday, after a gathering of the Western New York chapter of the New York State Commercial Association of Realtors. "This is America. Were he to lose, he would accept that, and his supporters would accept that. This is America."
Langworthy agreed that Trump was wrong to question the integrity of the electoral process.
"I don't think it was wise for him to say that," Langworthy said. "I don't think it was helpful to his campaign to do that."
Langworthy said elections in Erie County are "very fair, upfront and honest." He said Trump's complaints about a "rigged" election stem not so much from worries about voter fraud but from concerns about bias in the national mainstream media -- which, he said, clearly seems to be on the side of Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Complaining about a rigged election – and saying that he might not respect the results of it – could hurt Trump's chances of getting his supporters out to the polls on Election Day, Langworthy added.
Both Collins and Langworthy made clear that they still strongly support Trump for president.
Democrats, however, said Trump's comments undermine democracy to the point where Republicans should renounce his candidacy.
"With a wink and a nod he casually tosses our constitutional process in the trash while sowing seeds of unrest by claiming our election system is rigged when there is no evidence to back up this dangerous claim," Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz said.
Poloncarz, Buffalo Mayor and New York State Democratic Party Chairman Byron W. Brown and Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy Zellner held a press conference at Democratic headquarters to denounce Trump.
At their side stood a series of Democratic candidates in this fall's election, including Collins' challenger, Batavia businesswoman Diana Kastenbaum. State Sen. Tim Kennedy also attended the press conference, as did State Senate candidate Amber Small and State Assembly candidate Steve Meyer.
“Trump’s refusal to honestly answer if he would accept the election results is consistent with his character, as he has not been honest at any point throughout this election cycle," Zellner said. “All Americans should take note of Trump’s radical and divisive departure from our democratic process, and local GOP leadership should show some spine and renounce Trump’s dangerous and inflammatory rhetoric.”
Collins said, though, that despite what Trump said during the debate, the GOP nominee remains a far superior choice for president. Collins said he supports Trump because of his call for tax cuts and a tougher approach on trade, among other reasons.
"I do like Donald Trump’s position," Collins said. "I despise Hillary Clinton as a human being and as a failed politician. You merge those together and that’s why I’m an enthusiastic Trump supporter, looking beyond what I call some personality flaws."