Democrat Nate McMurray on Sunday said his approach won't change, no matter who Republicans find to replace Rep. Chris Collins on the ballot. At the same time, the GOP began figuring out how it will sort through the numerous candidates seeking the seat.
McMurray, the Grand Island supervisor, earlier this year launched an underdog challenge to the well-funded incumbent, a race upended by last week's indictment of the Clarence Republican and his announcement Saturday that he was suspending his campaign for re-election.
"My message is not going to change no matter who they throw in," McMurray said during an appearance Sunday morning on "Hardline," the WBEN radio program. "It's about jobs, jobs, jobs. Middle class, middle class, middle class."
McMurray said he wants Collins out of office, but he acknowledged the difficulty of taking on a well-funded incumbent with high name recognition. When given the choice between an indicted Collins and a generic Republican replacement, he responded that he'd prefer to run against the generic Republican.
In his radio appearance and in a lengthy post to his campaign's Facebook page, McMurray blasted Republican party leaders for ignoring ethics complaints about Collins for years and for acting to push him out of office only now, when it's in their best interest.
He also sought to portray himself as a centrist candidate, repeating his statement that he would not vote for Nancy Pelosi as speaker if Democrats take back the House and saying he hasn't decided whether to accept an endorsement from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
McMurray filled the vacuum left by Collins' departure from the race by answering questions on "Hardline" and publishing his sharply worded Facebook statement. It was an opportunity for the Democrat to introduce himself outside his Grand Island base.
He told host Kevin Hardwick, an Erie County legislator, and journalists Dave Greber and Ryan Whalen that he has scrambled to scale up his "grassroots" campaign, which has struggled to raise campaign funds, in the days since Collins' indictment on insider trading charges last Wednesday.
He has a previously scheduled fundraiser at a private home in Snyder, co-hosted by Erie County Democratic Chair Jeremy Zellner and several others, on Thursday called "A Date with Nate." He said Sunday he would have to know the reason a political action committee wants to donate to him before agreeing to accept the money.
In addition to emphasizing that the Democratic Party in Washington "needs new leadership," McMurray said on "Hardline":
- He won't push to oust the president from office. "Impeaching Donald Trump is not on my top priority list," McMurray said.
- He's not in favor of abolishing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, although he understands concerns about the agency.
- He said he's not sure he wants an endorsement from Cuomo, who is unpopular in the deep-red district. McMurray reminded the panel of his run-ins with the governor, including over the Grand Island Bridge tolls and efforts at the state level to convince McMurray to leave the race to make way for Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul. "We're in talks right now," McMurray said.
- "I support the Second Amendment strongly," he said. He was critical of Cuomo's forcing the SAFE Act "down our throats," but also said lawmakers shouldn't simply kowtow to the National Rifle Association.
- In his most progressive position, McMurray said he supports a woman's right to choose. "I believe in protecting reproductive rights," he said.
McMurray also went hard after GOP officials for supporting Collins up until Wednesday. "All this stuff about Mr. Collins was in the public record," said McMurray, adding that Republicans are now pulling a "bait-and-switch" and saying "trust us."
A candidate for state attorney general also dropped into the 27th Congressional District over the weekend: Zephyr Teachout, who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2014.
She tweeted that she stopped by Collins' office in Lancaster on Sunday to leave him a signed copy of her book, "Corruption in America."
"I think you may especially enjoy page 41, about the 'calamities' that befall human nature when people in public positions use their power for selfish ends," her inscription to Collins said.
I just stopped by the Lancaster office of Congressman Chris Collins and left him a copy of my book. pic.twitter.com/AO9EaSoqwf
— Zephyr Teachout (@ZephyrTeachout) August 12, 2018
Teachout said on Saturday she left inscribed copies of books for Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino, another candidate for the Collins seat, and for Trump ally Roger Stone.