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Editorial: Voters in Chris Collins' district deserve better

What a mess.

Rep. Chris Collins, the Clarence Republican indicted on insider trading charges, first said he would suspend his reelection campaign and would, when Republican leaders found a way to replace him on the ballot, step out of the race.

Then Monday he said he would stay in the race. One source told News political reporter Robert McCarthy that Collins’ lawyers worried his bail would be revoked if he agreed to the machinations necessary to remove his name from the ballot.

Then yesterday he said he was in the race for real and would serve if reelected.

Collins is at least the 25th member of Congress since 1987 to be indicted while in office. Not surprisingly, the list includes a fellow New Yorker: Michael Grimm, a Staten Island Republican who in 2014 won reelection to Congress “handily.” Grimm resigned a month after the election, after pleading guilty to one count of felony tax fraud. He tried to come back this year but lost in a GOP primary in June.

Who could forget Alan Hevesi? In 2006, the Democrat was New York state comptroller. Then came the ongoing investigation into his personal use of state government services. This did not deter him from running and winning and declaring on election night he would “serve and work hard for the people of New York every day for the next four years.” The following month, before being sworn in for another term, he resigned as part of a plea deal.

When it comes to corruption, we New Yorkers are second to none.

Collins doesn’t even have the distinction of being the only indicted member of Congress running for reelection this year. California Republican Duncan Hunter has been charged with using campaign donations to pay for a more lavish lifestyle, including tequila shots and family trips to Hawaii and Italy.

Hunter has been aggressively campaigning. Collins, on the other hand, led his party and constituents to believe that he would crawl through whatever loophole Republican leaders could find to get him off the ballot. Erie County GOP Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy and his cohorts worked for six weeks to find an election law loophole.

Langworthy, to his credit, was clearly peeved by Collins’ flip-flop. “You can’t help but feel like a jilted groom at the altar,” Langworthy said.

Voters deserve better. Elections are important. The choices we make affect our future. Voters – especially Republican voters – deserve better than a hold-your-nose choice between a Democrat with whom they may disagree and a Republican who faces the possibility of prison. Collins says he is not guilty of the crimes he is accused of committing. But at best, if reelected he will be powerfully distracted from his public duties. At best.

What a mess.

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