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'It’s a tough thing,' Chris Collins says of ending re-election race

Rep. Chris Collins, a Republican from Clarence facing insider trading charges, said Saturday he would not run for re-election.

Collins said that he would serve out his term, however, which lasts until Jan. 3, 2019.

Outside his home in the wealthy Spaulding Lake community in Clarence on Saturday, Collins declined to discuss any potential successors and asked for privacy.

“I’ve made a decision to withdraw and it’s up to the party to decide,” Collins said.

In a statement earlier in the day, Collins said: "After extensive discussions with my family and my friends over the last few days, I have decided that it is in the best interests of the constituents of NY-27, the Republican Party and President Trump’s agenda for me to suspend my campaign for re-election to Congress."

In the statement, Collins also said: "I will also continue to fight the meritless charges brought against me and I look forward to having my good name cleared of any wrongdoing."

Collins' withdrawal comes three days after federal prosecutors in Manhattan charged him with securities fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy and lying to a federal agent. Prosecutors accused Collins of tipping off his son, Cameron, to inside information on Innate Immunotherapeutics, an Australian biotech firm in which they were both heavy investors.

Cameron Collins then started selling his Innate shares and told others the bad news, prosecutors said. Cameron Collins and his prospective father-in-law, Stephen Zarsky, also face federal charges in connection to their stock trades. They have all pleaded not guilty.

At his home in Clarence on Saturday, Collins seemed in a somber mood.

“It’s a tough thing, a tough thing,” said Collins, dressed in slacks and a blue sport shirt.

Race upended 

Collins' move upends the race for Congress in New York's 27th district, a heavily Republican stretch of suburbs and farmland between Buffalo and Rochester.

Republicans in the district now face the complicated question of how to remove Collins from the ballot.

Under New York law, a candidate's name can be stricken from the ballot only if he or she dies, runs for another office or possibly if he or she moves out of state.

That means Collins – who also has a home in Florida that he frequently visits in winter months – could conceivably try to change his legal residence to Florida, thereby allowing county chairs in the district to nominate a replacement candidate.

But former Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds, a Republican who represented the district a decade ago, said state election law is unclear as to whether a federal candidate such as Collins can remove his name from the ballot by moving out of state, or if that election law provision only applies to candidates for state office.

Possible Republican candidates include:

• Erie County Comptroller Stefan I. Mychajliw, who became the first person to announce his candidacy Saturday morning;

• State Sens. Patrick Gallivan, Chris Jacobs, Robert G. Ortt and Michael H. Ranzenhofer;

• Assemblymen Ray Walter and Steve Hawley;

• Iraq War veteran and radio commentator David Bellavia;

• Buffalo attorney James Domagalski;

• Former congressional aide and current political consultant Andrea Bozek;

• Erie County Legislator Lynne Dixon.

The Democratic candidate for the congressional seat, Grand Island Supervisor Nate McMurray, said Collins should resign from office – and that Republicans who backed him should reflect on their actions.

"I don't know why they celebrated him till last week, but I'm glad the right thing is finally happening," McMurray said.

McMurray noted that Republicans in the district stood by Collins all through the congressional ethics investigation of his stock trades.

"He never should have been endorsed or nominated," McMurray said of Collins. "It speaks to a broken system that he was even able to run."

Elected in 2012

Collins, a highly televised defender of President Trump and the first member of Congress to endorse his White House bid, continued to focus on Trump in the statement he released to the press at 10 a.m. Saturday.

"I will fill out the remaining few months of my term to assure that our community maintains its vote in Congress to support President Trump’s agenda to create jobs, eliminate regulations, reduce the size of government, address immigration and lower taxes," he said.

He added: "Democrats are laser-focused on taking back the House, electing Nancy Pelosi Speaker and then launching impeachment proceedings against President Trump," Collins said. "They would like nothing more than to elect an 'Impeach Trump' Democrat in this District, which is something that neither our country or my party can afford."

Collins, a longtime Buffalo-area businessman who served one term as Erie County executive, won election to Congress in 2012 by defeating then-Rep. Kathy Hochul, who is now New York's lieutenant governor.

He served as a back-bencher for his first two terms before emerging as a Trump spokesman – and before the scandal involving his involvement in Innate Immunotherapeutics emerged in January 2017.

How biotech's miracle 'cure' became a poison pill for Chris Collins

The Office of Congressional Ethics issued a report last October saying it had "substantial reason to believe" that Collins had shared inside information with prospective Innate investors, as well as breaking House rules by talking up the company before the National Institute of Health.

But prosecutors focused on a different incident: the calls Collins made to his son from the White House picnic in June of 2017, allegedly telling his son that clinical trials of Innate's drug for multiple sclerosis had failed in clinical trials in Australia.

Innate did not release that news publicly for another four days, and prosecutors said Cameron Collins and others spent that time dumping their shares – before the bad news drove down Innate's stock price by 92 percent.

Legal experts say Chris Collins will find it tough to clear his name

Bob McCarthy: Stunned Republicans seethe over Chris Collins dilemma

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