A poll released today by Siena gives Rep. Chris Collins a mere 3-percentage-point lead over challenger Nate McMurray in the NY-27 congressional race.
Three percentage points are within the margin of error -- plus or minus 4.7 percent -- making the race a statistical dead heat.
This matches the results of an internal poll released by McMurray's campaign last week that showed the race tracking as a tie with three weeks left until Election Day.
In response to the release of the poll, McMurray issued the following statement:
“This poll tells us what we already know, that voters are choosing country over party. They’re motivated based on who will help families like theirs rather than simply voting along partisan lines. We always knew this would be a close race, and this poll shows that it’s neck and neck. But our TV ads went on the air yesterday, after this poll was conducted; our grassroots support is strong, and as more voters tune in to the race and learn that they have a real choice, we’re more and more confident.”
The Batavian emailed Natalie Baldassarre, campaign manager for Collins, and asked for a statement from Collins -- not her -- about the poll, his third-quarter fundraising report, which includes a campaign expenditure for the use of a private jet. We have not received a response.
Political reporter Ryan Whalan with Capitol Tonight in Albany said in a tweet this morning that he has made several requests to Collins for an interview and has been rebuffed. Since his arrest on federal charges of securities fraud, wire fraud, and lying to the FBI, Collins has largely avoided contact with the media or answering tough questions.
His only campaign appearances have been at invite-only Republican events. After The Batavian was unable to secure an interview with Collins, we announced we would stop publishing his campaign press releases until he sits down for an interview with The Batavian. The deadline for the interview is this Friday and Collins has yet to agree to an interview.
The Siena Poll results released doesn't break out how Collins is doing vs. McMurray in Genesee County, but it does say McMurray is leading in Erie County 46 to 45 percent. Collins is leading in the rest of the 27th District 46 to 42 percent.
Reform Party Candidate Larry Piegza is favored by 1 percent of the voters.
While Collins has a narrow lead in the race, the indicted congressman has a much higher unfavorable rating than McMurray, 49 to 21 percent.
In most congressional races throughout the country, women are trending toward supporting the Democratic candidate but not in the NY-27. Collins is supported by 46 percent of the women polled compared to 42 percent for McMurray.
McMurray also seems to be bucking the trend of Democrats picking up younger voters. In the under 55 demographic, Collins leads 49 to 42 percent. McMurray is fairing better with older voters, where Collins' margin is a mere 2 percentage points, 45 to 43.
McMurray leads the race among nonpartisan voters 46-45 percent.
Siena surveyed 490 likely voters in the district between Oct. 6 and 11.
President Donald Trump's approval rating is 56 percent among voters in the district, much higher than his 42 percent approval rating nationally.
Fifty-six percent of those polled want to see the Republicans maintain control of the House of Representatives.
Meanwhile, since his arrest, Collins has seen donations to his campaign fall off a cliff, according to the Buffalo News.
Collins, who reportedly had more than $1 million in his war chest before his arrest, raised $32,755.74 in the third quarter, and only $2,955 was donated to his campaign after his arrest.
All but $80 of the money donated to Collins in the last round came from residents of the 27th District.
In the quarter, Collins spent $233,369 on advertising, $40,147.33 in legal fees and a $7,895 on a charter flight.
Members of Congress must justify travel expenses as a legitimate campaign activity to spend campaign funds on travel, according to House Rules.
Baldassarre told the Buffalo News that the chartered plane was used to return Collins to Buffalo after his arrest in New York City on Aug. 8. Collins was hours late to a press conference he scheduled and congressional staff at the time (the event was staffed by government employees, not campaign employees) told members of the media that his flight had been delayed. Though Collins called a press conference, he refused to take questions after issuing a statement.