If Rep. Collins runs for reelection, he could face primary challenges from Ortt and Hawley
If Rep. Chris Collins, dogged by ethics and criminal investigations, decides to run for reelection in 2020, he could face a primary challenge from fellow Republicans, including Sen. Rob Ortt, who visited Reyncrest Farms in Corfu this morning.
"I'm going to make my decision based on my own discussions with my wife, discussions with my family and friends and people I trust, and will do what I think is best for the district," Ortt said. "Obviously, I've got to make the decision that that's right for Rob Ortt, where I think I can serve best to be a voice on issues that matter to me whether it's in the State Senate or in the U.S. House of Representatives.
"So, you know, we'll make that determination on our own timeline. Obviously, probably sooner rather than later, but we're going to make that decision of on our own timeline apart from whatever other people may do."
Other people, of course, includes Collins, who told The Batavian three weeks ago that he has yet to decide whether he would run for reelection.
Collins is facing a Federal court trial on charges stemming from an alleged insider trading conspiracy. Collins, along with co-defendants Cameron Collins and Stephen Zarsky, is accused of securities fraud, wire fraud, and making false statements to FBI agents.
Besides the criminal case, a House of Representatives Ethics Committee is also looking into his conduct involving his holdings in Innate Therapeutics.
Other people mounting a primary challenge would also include State Sen. Chris Jacobs, who reportedly announced his intention this morning to run against Collins, and Batavia-resident Assemblyman Steve Hawley.
Reached by text message this afternoon, Hawley said he is indeed considering challenging Collins, depending on the situation with Collins.
"I'm strongly considering it," Hawley said.
Another Batavia resident, combat veteran David Bellavia is also considered a potential candidate. Bellavia has yet to respond to a text message asking him about his intentions for 2020.
Ortt, himself also a combat veteran, said his decision will come entirely independent of what Collins decides to do.
"He's got to do what he thinks is right," Ortt said. "Again just like me, he will do what he thinks is right for himself, for his family and given his situation, but he also has a responsibility to do what's right for the district.
"If he does not think he can serve this district in an effective way, then I think the right thing would be at some point to make a determination to step aside and let someone else come in."
Collins narrowly beat Nate McMurray in the 2018 election and McMurray seems to be a likely Democratic contender in 2020. We asked Ortt, given a potentially strong Democratic candidate and the legal and ethical issues facing Collins, if Collins should step aside and Ortt said he would never suggest to Collins, or any other potential candidate, that he not run.
"This is America," Ortt said. "There will be a lot of people I imagine that might jump into this race. If (Collins) thinks he can make an effective argument of why he should be retained as the congressman, I would welcome that as much if I was in the race as anything.
"I'm not going to say one person should run or should not run because ultimately the people of the 27th District, particularly Republican voters in a primary, they're going to make that determination about who they think can effectively, not only defend the president's agenda or defend the agenda that's important to this district, but also represent them in a way that they think they'd be proud of."
UPDATE 3:50 p.m.: We heard back from David Bellavia. He is considering a run for Congress in the 27th. "Not afraid of primaries," Bellavia said in a text message. "Especially ones involving Rep. Collins and Senator Jacobs."
UPDATE 5:34 p.m.: Statement from Nate McMurray on the possibility of a primary challenge to Collins:
"It's understandable that some would see an opportunity in Collins' legal predicament, but let's not pretend that Collins was an effective leader prior to that. Our grassroots network has been fighting for the people of the 27th Congressional District well before his indictment last August and never stopped.
"I think it's unfortunate that anyone would evaluate running in this district based on personal political gain, or in order to keep it in Republican hands. Hyper-partisanship is the last thing the people of Western New York need right now and the voters here confirmed that last November by reelecting Collins by a mere .37%. The district went purple and people crossed party lines. It shows that business-as-usual will no longer fly. We will continue to prepare for whatever comes next, and look for opportunities to bring people together."