State Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer, R-Amherst, considered a frontrunner among Republicans hoping to replace indicted Rep. Chris Collins on the November ballot, Monday said he has taken himself out of the running.
"After a great deal of reflection and consultation with my family, friends and community over the last several days, I am removing myself from consideration in the search to find a replacement candidate for the 27th Congressional District," Ranzenhofer said in a statement emailed to The Buffalo News.
Ranzenhofer's four-paragraph statement praised the other Republicans being considered, as well as party leaders charged with selecting a replacement. The statement offered no further insight into why Ranzenhofer was pulling out.
"The chairmen and chairwomen who will make this very important decision have been thrust into unchartered waters and a very difficult decision," Ranzenhofer said in the statement. "They have taken their responsibilities seriously and have been very thoughtful and deliberative. No other group of individuals is better able to handle this challenge.
"I want to commend those who have answered the call," he continued. "Many are my friends, some are my colleagues, and each would make an exceptional member of Congress."
Ranzenhofer is among nine people interviewed last week by GOP leaders looking for a candidate to replace Collins on the ballot for the 27th Congressional District.
At the end of the interview session, the GOP leaders – county chairs from the eight counties comprising the 27th district – said they were slowing the process down, in part, apparently, because of the uncertainty over whether they would be able to find a legal way to remove Collins' name from the ballot.
Collins was arrested Aug. 8 on insider trading charges. On Aug. 11 he announced he was discontinuing his campaign.
Prior to last week's interview session, Ranzenhofer was viewed as a frontrunner to replace Collins on the ballot, creating speculation that if Ranzenhofer moved to Congress, Assemblyman Ray Walter of Amherst could run for Ranzenhofer's Senate seat, and County Legislator Ed Rath of Amherst could then run for Walter's Assembly seat.
Ranzenhofer, 64, is serving his fifth term in the Senate, and is up for re-election this year. He is also an attorney with a law practice – Friedman & Ranzenhofer – based in Akron.
If elected to Congress, Ranzenhofer would have had to give up his law practice; a House of Representatives ethics rule forbids sitting members of Congress from practicing law. The state Senate does not have a similar rule.
Ranzenhofer earned about $160,000 from his legal work in 2017, The Buffalo News has reported, based on Ranzenhofer's state Senate ethics filings. He earns $79,500 as a state senator, and another $15,000 for chairing a Senate committee. Members of Congress get a base salary of $174,000.
Ranzenhofer is one of three state Senators who expressed interest in replacing Collins. All are seeking re-election to their state posts.
State Senate leaders have expressed concern over the possibility of any of the Western New York State Senators leaving their state posts to run for Congress. Republicans hold a one-vote majority in the Senate, and don't want to jeopardize any of the Western New York seats.
Ranzenhofer said last week that he's confident his Senate seat would remain in Republican control if he ran for Congress. "It's been Republican for 40 years," he said at the time.
Ranzenhofer also said that, if elected to Congress, he would move into the 27th district. He lives in a part of Amherst located in the adjacent 26th district. He represents the 61st state Senate district, which includes Amherst, Clarence, Newstead and parts of Monroe and Genesee counties – much of which is in the 27th Congressional District.
Other Republicans interviewed last week were: State Sen. Robert Ortt of North Tonawanda, State Sen. Chris Jacobs of Buffalo, Assemblyman Stephen Hawley of Batavia, Assemblyman Walter of Amherst, Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw, County Legislator Lynne Dixon of Hamburg, County Legislator Rath of Amherst and Buffalo developer Carl Paladino.
The Democratic candidate is Nathan McMurray, who is the Grand Island town supervisor.