Congressman Chris Collins this morning announced he would suspend his campaign for re-election. Collins, a Republican representing New York’s 27th District in the House, was indicted on insider trading charges earlier this week.
In a statement posted to Twitter, Collins said that Democrats “would like nothing more than to elect an ‘Impeach Trump’ Democrat” in the 27th District,” and that “it is in the best interests of the constituents of NY-27, the Republican Party, and President Trump’s agenda for me to suspend my campaign for re-election to Congress.”
Federal prosecutors have charged Collins with passing private information about an Australian biotechnology company, Innate Immunotherapeutics, to his son, Cameron Collins. Collins, who both sat on the company’s board and was its largest single shareholder while simultaneously serving in Congress, allegedly warned his son about the failure of trials for a multiple sclerosis treatment before those results were public. Chris Collins, Cameron Collins, and Cameron Collins’ father-in-law used the inside information to avoid more than $768,000 in losses when the trials failed, according to prosecutors.
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Collins’ district encompasses suburban areas of Rochester and Buffalo, and has voted for Republican candidates by wide margins since redistricting after the 2010 census. Collins had enjoyed a solid lead against Democratic opponent Nate McMurray, and Collins initially called the charges “meritless” and said he would continue campaigning.
But many analysts said the charges had changed the calculus of the race at least somewhat in favor of Collins’ Democratic challenger. The Buffalo News described the seat as “in play” after the charges, while historical analysis by FiveThirtyEight concluded that the once safely Republican seat had suddenly become “competitive.” The McMurray campaign also experienced an immediate surge in donations after the charges against Collins.
Collins’ downfall could not have come at a worse moment for the GOP nationally. Democrats need to flip 23 seats to retake the House, which would allow them to ramp up investigations of the Trump administration, and slow its legislative priorities. They could also, as Collins’ noted in his statement, potentially impeach the president himself – though that gesture would be purely symbolic without Senate cooperation.
According to the Wall Street Journal, removing Collins from the November ballot at this late date will require some unusual maneuvering by the state Republican Party. Collins will be nominated for a town clerkship during the state’s primary process, and party leaders will then appoint a new nominee for the House seat.