Chris Collins acknowledged early this morning that his re-election to the House of Representatives was close – really close.
The Clarence Republican beat Democrat Nate McMurray by only 1 percentage point, according to unofficial state Board of Elections results. He lost his home county of Erie. And his GOP came within a whisker of forfeiting its strongest congressional district in all of New York.
“When you win, you win,” he said in a phone conversation with The Buffalo News. “It doesn’t matter if you win by one or 50,000.”
McMurray, too, saw the election results as a win for Collins and conceded Tuesday night. But shortly before 1 a.m., he called for a recount.
"After examining the numbers, the margin is 1 percent and the will of the voters must be heard. We are demanding a recount," McMurray tweeted. "Mr. Collins is going to need another set of lawyers."
Natalie Baldassarre, a spokesperson for the Collins campaign, quickly pushed back: "After tearfully conceding and recognizing his own defeat, Nate McMurray is once again dancing to the tune of the angry mob that just can't accept the will of the voters. Congressman Collins is looking forward to serving NY-27 as he always as."
Collins, under federal indictment for insider trading since Aug. 8, says he will resume representing the 27th Congressional District just as he always has. He will vote daily, sponsor and cosponsor legislation, and continue to provide constituent service.
But he remains unsure whether the House Republican leadership will grant his request to be reinstated to the committees from which he resigned following his indictment. He told The News on Oct. 28 that he will try to make the case that by winning re-election and committed to serving a full term, he should be allowed to rejoin his committees while awaiting a trial that is not slated to start until February of 2020.
He remains unsure, however, if his argument will prevail.
“That’s a discussion I have to have with our leadership now that I am re-elected,” he said. “I can’t tell you now how that will work out.”
The congressman said he believes voters accepted the core argument of his unusual re-election campaign – that the district had to remain in Republican hands to continue to support President Trump’s agenda.
“That’s more important than ever to have members of the House like me standing with him,” he said, referring to the Democratic takeover of the House following Tuesday elections around the nation.
Will he be able to function while under indictment and under the new Democratic leadership of the House?
“It all depends on the tone of where the Democrats go,” he said. “The initial tone has been quite negative.
“Only time will tell,” he added. “We’ll just have to see if they want to work with us or not.”
Collins also said he was satisfied with the negative tone of his just completed campaign. He avoided debates, granted few interviews to reporters, and concentrated on broadcast ads that he said “defined” McMurray as out of sync with a conservative, Republican district.
“The strategy was spot on,” he said.
Those ads were criticized by McMurray's supporters as misleading and inflammatory.
Meanwhile, the defeated McMurray said early Wednesday morning that the election results were “disheartening,” but that he expects to continue to add his voice to the national debate.
“This is my home, and I believe we deserve better than a congressman under indictment and out on bail, but I also respect the will of the voters, and they have spoken,” he said in a prepared statement issued at 12:26 a.m. “This campaign was a part of a movement to fight for the rights and leadership that we deserve as Americans. Tonight’s result is a setback, but we will never give up.”
His demand for a recount came not long after.