WASHINGTON — The Republican charged with electing more Republicans to the House said Tuesday that Rep. Chris Collins — indicted on federal insider trading charges — won't need help from the party's fundraising committee to win re-election.
But Rep. Steve Stivers of Ohio, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, didn't sound particularly thrilled with Collins' decision last week to reverse himself and run again in New York's 27th congressional district.
"I don't plan to spend a thing in that race," said Stivers, whose committee parcels out funds to Republican House members in competitive races nationwide. "I think Chris will win."
Collins faces a spirited but underfunded challenge from Democrat Nathan McMurray, the Grand Island town supervisor. There's also a Reform Party candidate in the race: West Seneca businessman Larry Piegza, who has been pledging allegiance to President Trump and who could siphon votes from Collins.
Even so, Republicans have a natural 11-point edge in New York's 27th district, which sprawls from Buffalo's suburbs to Rochester's.
That gives the GOP a "pretty solid" edge in the district no matter who the party's congressional candidate is, said Stivers, a Republican from Ohio.
"I don't think it's competitive enough for me to spend on," he said.
A spokeswoman for the NRCC's Democratic counterpart, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, did not offer any new comment on what Stivers had to say, instead repeating her statement from last week when Collins re-entered the race. The DCCC has not yet committed funds to McMurray's race, nor has it said that it will.
Meanwhile, McMurray said: "Wow. The National Republican Party is running away from Chris Collins. Every day I find more and more voters in NY-27 who are doing the same."
Asked whether he was surprised by Collins' decision last week to reverse course and run again, Stivers said: "I'm not surprised by anything anymore. It is what it is. There's things I can't change."
Federal prosecutors in New York charged Collins on Aug. 8 with fraud, conspiracy and lying to a federal agent. Prosecutors say Collins, his son Cameron and Cameron's prospective father-in-law engaged in an insider trading scheme to dump stock in an obscure Australian biotech company based on inside information the congressman got from the firm's CEO. Collins has maintained that he is innocent, as have Cameron Collins and the prospective father-in-law, Stephen Zarsky of New Jersey.
Collins dropped out of his race for re-election on Aug. 11, and Republican leaders in the district then hoped to replace him on the ballot with another candidate.
But Collins' lawyers objected, saying they saw no way to remove him from the ballot, prompting the third-term Republican congressman to resume campaigning.
Stivers said the Clarence Republican still has some political strengths despite the indictment.
"I think he has a record to run on," Stivers said. "I think he's good for his district, I think he has a relationship with his voters and he think he'll win that race."
There's the possibility, though, that Collins will be convicted and be forced out of Congress, or that he could win re-election and then resign as part of a plea agreement.
Stivers indicated it's best not to reach such conclusions.
"The charges are certainly serious, but the American people are innocent until proven guilty," he said.