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Collins earns backing from conservative groups despite indictment

Rep. Chris Collins' indictment on felony insider trading charges hasn't stopped three prominent conservative groups that have backed him for years from continuing to do so.

Since Collins' Aug. 8 indictment, the National Rifle Association gave the Clarence Republican an A+ rating. The National Federation of Independent Business, which endorsed Collins before his indictment, this fall gave him its Guardian of Small Business Award. And the New York State Right to Life Committee offered Collins a glowing endorsement.

"Our fellow New Yorkers depend on steadfast legislators such as you to protect the fundamental right to life, and we are heartened by your commitment to this basic human right," Christina Fadden Fitch, who chairs the state anti-abortion group's board, said in an Oct. 1 letter to Collins. "We wish you a successful campaign and look forward to working together with you in the future."

Of course that won't happen if Collins loses to Democrat Nate McMurray in the hotly contested race in New York's 27th District, or if Collins resigns from Congress either before or after his February 2020 criminal trial.

But Collins is contesting the charges against him and waging an aggressive campaign, and his longtime allies appear happy to help.

The NRA endorsed Collins and made him the only lawmaker in New York State with an A+ rating.

A bipertisan team from the Erie County Board of Elections began their count of the 2018 absentee ballots, Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018. They began with the 5588 ballots from the 27th District. A cart is filled with ballots. These are ballots from Clarence. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

“An ‘A+’ is reserved for a legislator with not only an excellent voting record on all critical NRA issues, but who has also made a vigorous effort to promote and defend the Second Amendment,” the NRA said.

Collins had done just that. He's been pushing a bill called the Second Amendment Guarantee Act. And while it has not come close to passing, it's a measure that New York gun rights activists love, all because it would undo the state's controversial SAFE Act gun control legislation.

In contrast, McMurray — who has advocated universal background checks and said he is open to an assault weapons ban — got an F from the NRA.

Collins also won hearty support from the National Federation of Independent Business, which presented him with its award for lawmakers last month.

It's not an exclusive honor: 230 other House members got the same award. But the honor did give Collins the ability to post a picture of himself with NFIB CEO Juanita Duggan and his statuette on social media, and to say: "I’ve always been a strong supporter of small business and free enterprise and thank the NFIB for their advocacy efforts."

While New York Right to Life, the NRA and NFIB all honored Collins, they seemed less than anxious to talk about those honors. Neither the Right to Life group nor the NFIB returned phone calls seeking comment and a local spokesman for the NRA could not be reached for comment.

McMurray, meanwhile, has won the endorsement of at least 15 organizations, including National Institute for Reproductive Health Action Fund, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense.

Other groups endorsing McMurray include Social Security Works PAC, Demand Universal Healthcare, Stonewall Democrats of Western New York, the Sierra Club, the New York League of Conservation Voters, End Citizens United and several progressive groups.

Asked if he wanted to comment on Collins receiving endorsements despite his indictment, McMurray instead reflected on the support he's getting.

"I’m grateful for the support of these organizations and I won’t let them down," said McMurray, the Grand Island town supervisor. "I understand how difficult it is to decide to support a candidate and I will do my best to serve the voters of this region."

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