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Collins waits on decision to debate McMurray

Rep. Chris Collins is still debating whether to debate.

The Collins campaign said Thursday that it had not yet decided on whether the three-term Republican congressman from Clarence will face off in a public forum with his Democratic opponent, Grand Island Town Supervisor Nathan McMurray.

"We're considering all the debate invitations that have been extended to the campaign," Collins' campaign spokeswoman, Natalie Baldassarre, said in a statement. "Once the campaign makes a decision, we will reach out to the folks who invited us."

The Buffalo News contacted the Collins campaign Thursday because The News, WGRZ and WNED/WBFO sent a debate invitation to the two candidates on Sept. 19. The invitation asked both campaigns to reply by Wednesday as to whether the candidates would attend the debate, which would take place at 7 p.m. Oct. 18 at the WNED/WBFO studios.

McMurray, who said he accepted the debate invitation within 20 minutes, did not appear impressed with the Collins campaign's decision to delay.

"He's stalling," McMurray said. "He doesn't say he doesn't want to debate, because he knows that would look bad, but he doesn't want to accept because debating me is the last thing he wants to do."

In addition to the debate proposed by the News, WGRZ and the local public broadcasting outlets, WIVB invited the two candidates to debate, and McMurray accepted that invitation, too.

McMurray has been pressing Collins for a debate, both in person and on social media, since March – long before the Clarence Republican was indicted on federal insider trading charges on Aug. 8.

Prosecutors say Collins shared inside information about an obscure biotech stock with his son, Cameron, who is charged with then sharing the information with his prospective father-in-law, Stephen Zarsky. The congressman, his son and Zarsky all face charges of fraud, conspiracy and lying to a federal agent, and all three maintain they are innocent.

Collins suspended his re-election campaign three days after his arrest, but resumed it last week after his lawyers said they saw no way to remove his name from the ballot.

McMurray said on Twitter that he would like to challenge Collins about the "ugly ads" his campaign has been airing. But in a phone interview, the Democrat said he thinks there's another reason why Collins doesn't want to talk about his ads or anything else in a debate.

"He doesn't want to talk about his record because his only record is his arrest record. Literally," McMurray said.

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