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Running for re-election while facing criminal charges is tough, but not that rare

Trying to get re-elected while facing criminal charges is a tough task, especially for sitting members of Congress.

Chris Collins, the Clarence Republican indicted Wednesday on insider trading charges, is at least the 25th sitting member of Congress since 1987 to have been indicted while in office.

Collins, who called the charges against him "meritless," said he will continue to run for re-election.

He's not the first politician from New York to stay on the ballot while fighting criminal charges.

In 2014, then-U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm, a Staten Island Republican, won re-election handily despite a 20-count indictment against him. He resigned a month after the election, however, after pleading guilty to one count of felony tax fraud. Grimm sought a House comeback this year, but lost in a GOP primary in June.

In 2006, then-state Comptroller Alan Hevesi, a Democrat, kept running despite an ongoing investigation into his personal use of state government services. He won and vowed on election night to “serve and work hard for the people of New York every day for the next four years.’’ The next month, before being sworn for another term, Hevesi resigned as part of a plea deal.

Two years earlier, there was the case of Brooklyn Democrat Roger Green, who had been in the Assembly for more than 20 years. He pleaded guilty in the beginning of the year to inflating his state travel reimbursements and later, following an Assembly ethics probe, resigned. Green later ran again and won his old Assembly job back.

In 2006, state Sen. Efrain Gonzalez was indicted on mail fraud charges for steering state funds to a nonprofit group he founded and then tapping that money for his own expenses. Gonzalez, a Democrat, ran for re-election and crushed his opponent that fall.

Two years later, Gonzalez lost in a Democratic Senate primary bid to Pedro Espada Jr., who would go on to be one of the masterminds behind a 2009 coup in the state Senate. Espada was also no stranger to legal run-ins. Then the Senate majority leader, Espada in 2010 decided to seek re-election despite a rash of allegations against him, including a civil suit brought earlier in the year by then-Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo for allegedly taking millions from a health care entity he headed. Espada was later convicted in a federal probe of the health care nonprofit and sentenced to five years in prison.

Here's a list, compiled from previous news reports, of some of the other members of Congress who have landed in trouble. A few either saw the charges dropped, had their conviction overturned or were acquitted.

  • Rep. Mario Biaggi, D-N.Y., was convicted in August 1988 for accepting an illegal gratuity from Wedtech Corp., a defense contractor. He resigned as his colleagues in Congress were preparing to expel him, according to the New York Times. He remained on the primary ballot because it was too late to have him taken off and lost to the candidate who ended up winning the general election. Before the general election, he went on the ballot as a Republican but did then did not mount an active campaign, according to the Times.
  • Rep. Patrick Swindall, R-Ga., was indicted in October 1988 on perjury charges and lost a re-election bid that year.
  • Rep. Donald Lukens, R-Ohio, was indicted in February 1989 on a misdemeanor charge tied to allegations he had sex with a teenage girl. He resigned in October 1990.
  • Rep. Robert Garcia, D-N.Y., was convicted in October 1989 of extorting Wedtech Corp. of cash, loans and jewelry. He resigned in January 1990. The convictions were overturned and he was only found guilty of extorting a loan in the retrial.
  • Rep. Floyd H. Flake, D-N.Y., was indicted in August 1990 on charges including conspiracy, tax evasion, embezzlement and filing false statements. Prosecutors dropped the charges in April 1991. He continued to serve until resigning in November 1997 to return to full-time duties as a pastor.
  • Rep. Nicholas Mavroules, D-Mass., was indicted on extortion and other charges in August 1992.  He lost his bid for re-election that year, according to the Boston Globe. He pleaded guilty in April 1993 to 15 racketeering and extortion charges but denied taking a bribe, according to The Washington Post.
  • Sen. David Durenberger, R-Minn., was indicted in April 1993 and re-indicted in 1994 on charges he misused public funds. Durenberger did not seek re-election in 1994. He pleaded guilty to five misdemeanors in August 1995 and was sentenced to a year of probation.
  • Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, was indicted in September 1993 on charges she misused state employees, destroyed records and tampered with evidence. She was acquitted in February 1994 and served in the Senate through 2012.
  • Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, D-Ill., was charged in May 1994 with 17 corruption counts and later pleaded guilty to two counts of mail fraud. His lost his re-election bid later that year. He served 15 months in prison, according to The New York Times, and was pardoned by President Clinton in 2000.
  • Rep. Mel Reynolds, D-Ill., was indicted on charges of child pornography and sexual assault in August 1994 and convicted a year later. He resigned in October 1995 and ran unsuccessfully for Congress twice more.
  • Rep. Wes Cooley, R-Ore., was indicted in December 1996 on charges he lied about serving in Korea on official state voters' pamphlets, according to The New York Times. Cooley dropped out of the race in his re-election bid that year before the indictment was handed down. He was convicted of making a false statement in an official election document and sentenced to two years' probation and community service, according to The Oregonian.
  • Rep. James A. Traficant Jr., D-Ohio, was indicted in May 2001 on various charges including racketeering, tax evasion and bribery. Authorities accused him of selling local political favors and making office employees work his farm. He was found guilty in April 2002 and served seven years in prison. He was expelled from Congress on July 24, 2002, only the second member of Congress to be expelled since the Civil War. He unsuccessfully ran for Congress as an independent later that year and in 2010.
  • Rep. Bill Janklow, R-S.D., was charged in August 2003 with vehicular manslaughter. He was convicted in December and resigned in January 2004.
  • Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, was indicted in September 2005 on a charge of conspiring to violate political fundraising laws. He resigned in June 2006. He was convicted in 2010, but the conviction was overturned in 2013.
  • Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif., resigned from Congress in late 2005 after admitting he took bribes and evaded taxes.
  • Rep. Robert W. Ney, R-Ohio, pleaded guilty in October 2006 to corruption charges in connection with the activities of lobbyist Jack Abramoff. He resigned in November 2006.
  • Rep. William J. Jefferson, D-La., indicted in June 2007 in a bribery scheme and convicted in August 2009.  He lost a re-election bid in 2008. He was released from prison in December 2017, five years into his 13-year sentence after a Supreme Court ruling in another case that limited the definition of political corruption, according to U.S. News & World Report.
  • Rep. Rick Renzi, R-Ariz., was indicted in February 2008 and charged with extortion, wire fraud and money laundering in connection with land sale scheme, according to the Arizona Daily Star. He did not seek re-election later that year. In 2013, Renzi was convicted of filing false statements with regulators. He released from a halfway house in Washington, D.C., in January 2017, according to
  • Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, was indicted in July 2008 on charges he made false statements and later convicted. He lost a re-election bid in 2008. The indictment was dismissed in 2009 before sentencing.
  • Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla., was charged with misdemeanor cocaine possession in 2013, pleaded guilty and resigned from Congress in January 2014.
  • Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., was indicted in April 2014 on tax evasion and perjury charges. He won re-election later that year before pleading guilty to aiding in filing a false tax return and was sentenced to 8 months in prison. He resigned his seat. He lost in a primary race earlier this year in an attempt to regain his old seat.
  • Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., was indicted in April 2015 on charges he accepted campaign contributions and trips in exchange for helping an eye doctor in a billing dispute with Medicare and getting U.S. visas for the doctor's girlfriends. The federal case ended in a mistrial last November, according to The Washington Post. He is running for re-election this year.
  • Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., was indicted in July 2015 on public corruption charges. He was accused of for allegedly trying to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars of charitable and federal grand money to pay off debts for a failed political campaign, according to Bloomberg News. He resigned in June 2016 and was sentenced in December 2016 to 10 years in prison.
  • Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., was indicted in 2016 on fraud charges. She lost a primary race later that year. She was convicted on 18 of 22 counts in May 2017 and sentenced to five years in prison.

The Los Angeles Times reported in June 1994 that 89 members of the House and Senate had been indicted since 1798. In July 2015, the Washington Post reported 28 members of Congress had been indicted since 1980.

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