WASHINGTON – Indicted Rep. Chris Collins' decision to remain on the ballot in the November election will boost the chances of Democrat Nathan McMurray winning the race in New York's deeply Republican 27th Congressional District.
That's the conclusion the Cook Political Report, one of Washington's leading political prognosticators, reached earlier this week as it changed its rating in the Collins-McMurray race from "likely Republican" to "lean Republican."
Collins' move created "yet another unwanted situation for House Republicans in an otherwise safe Republican seat," wrote David Wasserman, House editor for the Cook Political Report.
Wasserman had moved the race from "solid Republican" to "likely Republican" after federal prosecutors in New York indicted Collins on felony insider trading charges on Aug. 8.
Collins, a Republican from Clarence, remains a strong favorite in the race because Republicans have a natural 11-point advantage in the heavily suburban and rural 27th District, the Cook Political Report said.
"It's unclear what strategy Collins will adopt now that he's taking a 180-degree turn after announcing he would end his re-election bid last month," Wasserman wrote. "But there's a hopeful precedent for Republicans: GOP Rep. Michael Grimm ran for re-election under indictment on Staten Island in 2014, and won handily in part because he promised voters he would resign if convicted (he ultimately followed through)."
But Collins has not promised to resign if re-elected. His congressional spokeswoman, Sarah Minkel, declined to answer questions about Collins' future political plans on Monday, and a spokesman for the Collins legal team, Trevor Francis, did not reply to an email asking whether he planned on using his $1.3 million war chest in his race against McMurray or if the congressman planned to resign if re-elected.
Noting that McMurray – the Grand Island town supervisor – currently doesn't live in the 27th District, Wasserman indicated that voters can expect Collins to wage a highly negative campaign against the Democrat.
"The indictment won't prevent Collins from using his personal wealth to attack McMurray as a carpetbagger, and Collins will attempt to neutralize his legal problems by citing McMurray's use of his town email account for political purposes to equate him with Hillary Clinton," Wasserman said.
Another top political prognosticator, Inside Elections with Nathan Gonzales, also ranks the 27th District race as "lean Republican." A third major political website, FiveThirtyEight.com, still ranks the race as "likely Republican" and gives McMurray a one-in-five chance of winning.