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December 13, 2018 - 9:33am
posted by Howard B. Owens in farm bill, agriculture, NY-27, chris collins, business.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) celebrated the passage of H.R 2, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. H.R. 2, which includes critically important dairy policy reforms that will strengthen and grow the Western New York dairy economy that in recent years has faced significant challenges.
 
H.R. 2 provides greater coverage to dairy farmers through the Margin Protection Program (MPP), and will allow farmers to participate in both the livestock and dairy protection programs. Additionally, the program will be rebranded as the Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) Program.
 
"I am extremely proud to see the 2018 Farm Bill make it to President Trump's desk," Collins said. “For too long, dairy farmers in Western New York have struggled to keep the agricultural industry alive because of inefficiencies in past programs and the overall decline in the dairy market. The reforms passed in H.R. 2 will provide a significant boost to farmers right here in Western New York by allowing them to better utilize this program.”
 
This legislation will also help strengthen trade enforcement, promote the research and development of specialty crops, ensure funding to help farmers locate new global markets, significantly increase investment in organic research, and offers cost-sharing assistance to help farmers transition into organics.
 
Collins added: “The agriculture industry is the backbone of New York’s 27th district. Protecting Western New York farmers will always be a priority of mine, and I’m committed to doing what is best to help them succeed. While we still have a lot of work to do to turn this industry around, H.R. 2 is a huge step in the right direction, and I’m pleased to see it pass today.”

Also, a press release from the New York Farm Bureau:

Today’s final vote for the 2018 Farm Bill is a major victory for New York’s farmers, rural communities and consumers. Farmers needed stronger risk management tools in place moving into next year where there are signs that the economic stress will continue in the farming community.

In particular, the new Farm Bill enhances the dairy safety net for farms of every size, including increasing the margin that qualifies for federal insurance programs. New York Farm Bureau also appreciates the research and support programs in the bill that will benefit New York’s specialty crop producers. Having some certainty moving forward in challenging times is a relief for farmers.

In addition, the Farm Bill supports critical conservation programs, rural development projects, and marketing and research programs to expand market opportunities for farmers. It legalizes industrial hemp, which will benefit farms interested in diversification. And the legislation provides permanent funding to help veterans and a new generation of beginning farmers. The biggest portion of the Farm Bill also guarantees Americans, who can least afford to eat, the ability to access the food farmers produce.

New York Farm Bureau is appreciative of New York’s lawmakers in the Senate and House of Representatives who supported the Farm Bill during this long process, resulting in the bipartisan legislation that their constituents expect. We encourage the President to sign the Farm Bill.”

November 30, 2018 - 4:31pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) praised President Trump and his administration for officially signing a new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

USMCA will make significant changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that will put the United States on more equal footing with the other nations. Specifically with regard to the dairy industry, Canada’s pricing program has created an unfair playing field and has essentially eliminated U.S. exports of certain dairy products, harming Western New York’s dairy industry.

“President Trump promised better trade deals and he has delivered replacing NAFTA which has caused our region to hemorrhage good paying manufacturing jobs for some time now,” Collins said. “Not only will this new treaty help with manufacturing, but it protects American farmers from burdensome tariffs and regulations.”

Collins has led the fight to end Canada’s unfair Class 7 pricing program, which has severely impacted New York dairy farmers. Under USMCA, Canada has agreed to eliminate this program in order to level the playing field between the United States and Canada while allowing our dairy producers the ability to expand sales overseas.

“With this barrier being struck down, Western New York dairy farmers are now able to compete fairly in Canada, and I thank the president for working to ensure NY-27 farmers are treated fairly,” Collins said.

Outside of the dairy industry, the new trade agreement will increase the production of American goods and services. The agreement requires that 75 percent of auto content be produced in North America and makes critical reforms that will boost auto workers’ wages. Additionally, the USMCA includes strong labor provisions that prioritize and protect American manufacturing jobs.

Furthermore, the agreement provides strong protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights. This includes 10 years of data protection for biologic drugs and a large scope of products eligible for protection. These reforms are critical to driving innovation, creating economic growth, and supporting American jobs.

Collins added: “By signing the USMCA, President Trump has fulfilled yet another campaign promise for the American people. Our country has been rightfully restored to a leader on the world stage, and I will continue to work with the White House and Republicans in Congress to uphold and advance the Make America Great Again agenda.”

November 26, 2018 - 5:40pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Nate McMurray, NY-27, news.

Statement released by Nate McMurray:

Good afternoon,
 
Nearly all the votes have been counted and Chris Collins will be returning to Washington to represent the people of New York’s 27th Congressional District. After discussing the matter thoroughly with counsel and weighing our options, we believe it’s in the best interest of this community to end this chapter and move on to the next.
 
I offer Mr. Collins my concession.
 
It was a hard decision. Part of me wants to fight. I can’t just smile and pretend this was all fair. And so my concession comes with a warning. Mr. Collins, you won by the slimmest of margins (less than half a percent), in a district designed to ensure anyone with an “R” next to their name, even an indicted criminal, could win a decisive victory.
 
Still, you almost lost. To win you had to resort to extreme measures—lying about me and my family, hiding from the media and the people you represent, and refusing to face me in the time-honored tradition of a public debate. Your strategy was by your own admission cowardice and partisan politics.
 
So I will be watching. We will all be watching. We are not going anywhere.
Together, with countless supporters across this district and throughout the country, we built something special. We ignored the naysayers and fought like hell for what we believed in.
 
We learned that at the grassroots level, the people have the power to break the political machine when we work together. We had the largest partisan swing of any first-time state or federal candidate in the country and one of the largest swings period. Together we set the foundation for incredible things to come.
 
We built this movement from the ground up via potlucks and picnics. I’m proud that we did this with little to no outside support. We raised over $1.2M in primarily grassroots donations in just over 3 months. Our campaign funds came from mechanics and farmers, school teachers, office workers, students, and senior citizens. There are few feelings more humbling than to have someone squeeze your hand at a campaign appearance, and tell you, “I just donated five dollars to your election. It’s all I can afford.”
 
For the first time in a very long time, the people of the 27th District felt that their voice was heard and that their vote mattered. My heart will not permit me to abandon those wonderful people.
  
So today, I am proudly announcing that I am forming an organization called Fight Like Hell. Fight Like Hell will be a voice for those thousands of Western New Yorkers who feel excluded, disenfranchised, and apathetic -- those who continue to reach out and ask what they can do, what’s next.
 
We want to take what we’ve learned and the tools and resources we’ve gathered and pay them forward by empowering more good people to run for office. I want more people to understand who their local leaders are (and how they can hold them accountable). Among other things, we will host Town Halls where residents will have a chance to share their voice, whether or not your Congressman thinks it’s important for you to do so or continues to hide
  
Beyond that. Mr. Collins' future in Washington remains murky. He says that he will finish his term, but as we know, Mr. Collins is not the best at keeping promises. Let me say it here first: when the time is right, I will run for office again.
  
I have met a lot of disappointed people since the election. I have felt a great deal of sadness. But be of good cheer. We are not what Mr. Collins represents. And we are not what the opportunistic politicians and pundits who supported him represent.
 
We ARE what those thousands of folks who stood up to him by standing on corners, writing postcards, and knocking doors in the cold represent. We ARE are what those Republicans who took a chance on a lanky Democrat represent. We ARE what the folks who are already gearing up for the next fight represent. Indeed, we ARE what America represents. We are hope, we are kindness, we are decency, and integrity.
 
Sure, we lost. But if we lost with integrity and fighting for Unions, the middle class, and healthcare for every American, so be it.
 
Stay strong. Protect it from the wind. But let that light glow.
 
With love, gratitude, and joy,
 
Nate

November 21, 2018 - 2:01pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, news, Nate McMurray, notify.

Two weeks after election day, with most of the outstanding ballots in the NY-27 counted, challenger Nate McMurray has pulled within 1,384 votes of Rep. Chris Collins but it's unlikely there are enough ballots left to be counted for McMurray to overtake the Federally indicted congressman.

McMurray has not conceded the race, though Collins has declared victory.

In Genesee County, in the count of provisional, military, absentee and emergency ballots, McMurray gained 71 votes on Collins, making the split 11,471 for Collins to 8,705 for McMurray. Third-party candidate Larry Piegza finished with 627 votes.

According to the McMurray campaign, and multiple other news reports, McMurray gained votes in nearly every, if not every, county in the district since election day two weeks ago.

In a statement this afternoon, McMurray thanked his supporters and vowed to continue the fight, claiming potential irregularities. He said he and his attorneys are discussing the situation and will decide what to do after Thanksgiving.

In election law in other states, when the margin separating two candidates is less than 1 percent, an automatic recount is required or a candidate can request a recount. New York law provides no mechanism for requiring a recount.

"We have seen extensive irregularities in the voting process, especially pertaining to absentee ballots, and there are issues that need to be addressed, not only for this election but for all elections in the future to ensure voters are not disenfranchised and that every voice is heard," McMurray said.

The Collins campaign has not sent a statement about the outcome of the election to The Batavian.

In Genesee County, the recount is a bipartisan affair, overseen by Richard Siebert for the Republicans and Lorie Longhany for the Democrats, with observers from both parties watching the entire process, from ballots being opened to votes being tabulated.

In Erie County, which is where McMurray picked up most of his additional votes to close the gap, which was 2,241 votes districtwide when Erie County started its vote count yesterday morning, Republican Commissioner Ralph M. Mohr told the Buffalo News the process there is similar to the process locally.

From the Buffalo News:

The Tuesday process began around 10 a.m. in a stark room at the Board of Elections on West Eagle Street. Officials first ran through a scanner the emergency ballots that somehow were jammed or encountered other problems in the machines on Election Day.

Then Mohr explained the process by which a bipartisan team from the board would open the ballots and prepare them for machine scanning. Officials lined up approximately 16 workers at carefully staged positions on both sides of a long table, with Democrats observing Republicans and vice versa.

“We have here a bipartisan team,” Mohr explained to a crowd of campaign observers and reporters, asking Democrats and Republicans assigned to the counting table to raise their hands.

Erie County officials counted 5,588 absentee ballots, 1,454 affidavit ballots, and 433 emergency ballots, with McMurray picking up 3,279 votes and Collins 2,422.  There are more ballots to count but McMurray would need nearly all of the remaining his ballots to go his way in order to pull out a victory and that is statistically improbable.

Collins is expected to be sworn in for his fourth term in January even though he faces an ongoing investigation by the House Ethics Committee, will be in the minority party, serve on committees, and awaits a Federal trial on charges that he exchanged in securities fraud, wire fraud, and lied to the FBI about his role in an alleged scheme to illegally use corporate insider information to assist family and friends in dumping stock they owned in Innate Therapeutics. Collins served as a member of the board of directors of the Austrailian biotech company.

He was also once the company's second-largest shareholder but in a recent disclosure by the company, Collins isn't even listed among the top 20 shareholders.

At one time, Collins reportedly held 3.8 million shares of the company's stock.  

By law, members of Congress must disclose their stock trades within 30 days of the transaction.

On June 20, Collins sold between $15,000 and $50,000 shares of stock (as specific as he's required to be on the disclosure form).

On that date, Innate was trading at 28 cents a share.  If he sold $50,000 worth of shares, he sold less than 180,000 shares. It's unclear when and how he disposed of his other outstanding shares (which would have been enough to keep in the top 20 shareholders of Innate if he retained the shares).

In a news report about the stock disclosure, his campaign spokeswoman called these facts "fake news."

Collins is expected to go on trial for his insider trading charges in February 2020. He vows to beat the charges and continue to serve in Congress.

November 15, 2018 - 12:58pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, Nate McMurray, news.

Press release:

Nate McMurray has issued the following statement after Congressional Republicans, apparently at the request of indicted Chris Collins, blocked McMurray from attending the New Member Orientation today.

"It is customary for candidates in close races to attend New Member Orientations so that they are best prepared to serve in the event that they win. After traveling to Washington to train alongside my peers, including others in contested races, I was informed that Rep. Gregg Harper, chairman of the Committee on House Administration, had personally denied my participation even after House Democratic leadership continued to advocate on my behalf.

"I am very disappointed by Congressional Republicans catering to Chris Collins’ demands, who is under indictment on 11 felony counts and spent his campaign lying and hiding from his constituents. I came to D.C. to equip myself to hit the ground running and better serve the people of Western New York once the results are official.

"It is shameful that Collins is continuing his efforts to diminish the will of the voters and call this race before all votes have been counted. As usual, he is actively undermining the future of this district and our country. I am grateful to Democrats from the House Administration Committee for having me at the Democratic events during the orientation and offering to come to the district to provide me and my team with all of the training, support and information we will need when we win.”

November 12, 2018 - 2:42pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Nate McMurray, NY-27, news.

Press release:

Today we observe Veterans Day, a day when we honor the sacrifices of the men and women of our armed services who have given so much to defend our democracy, keep our nation free and make our world a safer place for everyone.

It is a day worthy of discussing our elections and the importance of counting every vote, especially those of our service members who voted absentee.

As of now, several counties have begun the official canvass of the voting machines, but the vast majority remain uncounted. Tuesday is the deadline for absentee ballots to arrive, and most of the absentee ballots will be counted on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.

Beyond the official canvass and counting of absentee ballots, there are a number of affidavit ballots that may or may not be valid. All of these will be duly considered in the coming days until the Boards of Elections are ready to provide final official results.

All of the Boards remain enjoined by Court Order from finalizing the results until all ballots are counted. This is a slow process, but a necessary one. 

There are multiple races across the state facing similar delays in determining the outcome, some with Democrats leading in the unofficial results, some with Republicans leading. I believe that in all of these, every vote must be counted. In those races, as in ours, the election isn’t over until all the ballots are counted.  

NOTE: McMurray also shared this on Twitter this afternoon: "TOMORROW: As the count goes on, I’m headed to DC! It’s new member orientation and some friendly members of Congress invited me down."

November 7, 2018 - 5:25pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in NY-27, chris collins, Nate McMurray, news.

Press release:

Nate McMurray has issued the following statement on yesterday’s too-close-to-call results in his campaign for US Congress in NY-27.

“When we started this race, the insiders and pundits said we didn’t have a chance. But we gave the voters a better choice, and by earning support from Republicans, Independents and Democrats alike, we’re beating the odds and we won’t stop until the official results are confirmed. We need to make sure every voice and every vote in this region is heard and counted.

“This isn’t even yet a recount. We haven't even had an official count yet. In our democracy, every single vote matters. There are over 18,000 votes that have not yet been counted, between absentee, emergency, and affidavit ballots. If this were Election Day, we would still be holding tight. We will continue to count each and every ballot to ensure every voter in this district is heard.

“With only 2,800 votes separating us, this race is too close to call. There are too many voters who have not yet had their say. We are fighting to make sure every vote is counted because every vote counts.

“I believe that the hardworking families of this district are ready to reject the stale and ineffective tactics of partisanship politics, put country before party, and turn the page from Chris Collins’ self-serving chapter in our region’s history. We must finish counting ballots so we can finally get to work to make Washington and fixing a rigged system that both Republicans and Democrats agree is hopelessly broken.

“That starts with me, a Democrat, talking to you, my voters who are Republicans and Democrats and independents, about what we can do to solve the real problems our nation faces. We need to create secure borders, not with grandstanding and rhetoric, but with real immigration reforms that protect our sovereignty, but also makes sure our farmers have the workforce they need to succeed. It means protecting Social Security and Medicare, so Americans get the benefits they’ve been paying for their entire lives.

"It means defending the Second Amendment while passing common-sense reforms like universal background checks to keep guns away from terrorists and criminals. It means bringing good jobs back to our region, investing in infrastructure and protecting our farmers. It means standing strong against corruption in both parties to give taxpayers honest leadership they can trust.

“This isn’t over yet. We’re still fighting like hell."

November 7, 2018 - 12:11am
posted by Howard B. Owens in election, NY-27, batavia, news, notify, chris collins, Nate McMurray.

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As Nate McMurray appeared on TV just after 11 o'clock tonight, a couple of local Democrats at Center Street Smoke House for election night noticed McMurray didn't look happy.

The room turned glum.

"Don't concede, Nate," one of them said.

That's was what McMurray was about to do.

With 94 percent of the precincts reporting in the New York 27th Congressional District, Rep. Chris Collins held at 2,697 vote lead, a 49.5 to 48.4 percent margin.

In Genesee County, Collins won with 2,837 more votes, 53.8 percent to 39.91 percent, or 10,986 votes to 8,149.

These are unofficial vote totals, not yet certified and do not include absentee ballots.

Reform Party candidate Larry Piegza picked up 598 votes locally, or 2.93 percent, which was fewer votes than the 651 ballot line for the 27th blank.

McMurray did beat Collins in the City of Batavia, 2,219 votes to 1,821.

The NY-27 is a 22-point Republican advantage and McMurray, a Democrat who is town supervisor in Grand Island, still managed to make it a close race, primarily because Collins has spent much of the past year under the cloud of an ethics investigation and was arrested Aug. 8 on federal charges related to alleged insider trading. 

Also in Genesee County, the controversial ballot measure to stagger and extend terms in office members of the County Legislature passed 9,508 votes to 8,981.

In contested races, Barbara Czworka won the Town of Bethany Highway Superintendent election over Michael T. Adams, 440 votes to 289 votes. For Town of Alexander Justice, Mark Anderson beat Nicholas Falcone 775 to 757. (CORRECTION: This was a vote-for-two election. Anderson and Falcone both ran unopposed, not against each other.)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo did not fare well among Genesee County voters, getting only 4,982 votes to 13,397 for Marc Molinaro. Larry Sharpe received 1,201 votes locally. Howie Hawkins got 252 and Stephanie Minor, 188.

UPDATE 12:28 a.m.: McMurray issued the following statement:

"While tonight's results are disheartening, my fight for a better Western New York and a better United States will not end. 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. 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.”

UPDATE 12:53 a.m.: McMurray just issued a new statement demanding 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. Mr. Collins is going to need another set of lawyers.”

We'll have more election coverage sometime tomorrow.

Top photo: Democrats watch Nate McMurray's concession speech at Center Street.

November 6, 2018 - 1:42pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, news, election, notify.

For the first time -- as far as we know -- Rep. Chris Collins made his first appearance in Genesee County since his arrest Aug. 8, stopping by a polling location in Oakfield to drop off donuts.

Dick Siebert, the Republican election commissioner, said he spoke with a Democratic poll monitor at the poll in Oakfield and Collins did not campaign while at the location, did not carry any campaign material and did not wear anything that would identify him as Chris Collins.

"He spoke to one or two of the inspectors," Siebert said. "From what I understand he just wished them a good day. He had no campaign button or anything on that would identify him as Chris Collins. He did no campaigning with any of the people standing in line to vote."

Collins is running for reelection after being charged with securities fraud, wire fraud, and lying to the FBI. His top rival is Nate McMurray, town supervisor of Grand Island.

The turnout is reportedly good at Genesee County polling locations, on par with a presidential-year election, according to Lorie Longhany, the Democratic election commissioner. 

"We just heard from another polling location and they are using the word, 'busy,' " Longhany said. "My guess is, a more robust turnout for a midterm, which is what is being reported nationally."

Our news partner, WBTA, contributed to this story.

November 5, 2018 - 7:37pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, news.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) today released the following statement urging local schools to participate in this year’s “Holiday Mail for the Troops” Program.

“I am proud to once again invite all elementary age students in New York’s 27th District to create holiday cards for our troops,” Congressman Collins said. “The holiday season is fast approaching and many of our brave service men and women will not be able enjoy it at home with their families.

"Nothing can replace being with loved ones and friends during the holidays, but together we can brighten this holiday season for our troops.”

With your help, we will distribute holiday cards to the brave men and women at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station to show our appreciation for their service.

Participants are asked to drop off the holiday cards to either of Congressman Collins’ district offices no later than Dec. 14 to ensure delivery by Christmas.

Lancaster District Office                          Geneseo District Office
2813 Wehrle Drive, Suite 13                            128 Main St.
Williamsville, NY 14221                                   Geneseo, NY 14454
Phone: (716) 634-2324                                     Phone: (585) 519-4002

Please contact Shannon Dougherty at [email protected] if you have any questions about how your school can participate. You can also reach Shannon by phone at 585-815-5286.

November 5, 2018 - 9:00am
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, Nate McMurray, news, notify.

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In the past three weeks, Rep. Chris Collins has made eight campaign stops, according to his Twitter feed, and none of them have been in Genesee County.

His opponent, Nate McMurray, made eight stops in just two days, including one Sunday morning at Tim Hortons in Batavia.

"I feel we're going to win," McMurray said. "I mean, I had people in Albion and Medina yesterday running up to me or stopping cars because they recognized me. I never had that experience in my life."

Whether McMurray's prediction of victory is confidence or overconfidence, we won't know until late Tuesday night but McMurray said he also feels the weight of the world when he thinks about winning. He knows it will mean that a lot of Republicans in this bright red district put their faith in him.

"I had Republicans coming up to me saying 'we believe you, do not let me down,' " McMurray said. "I could see they were serious, like, 'we've been let down, don't let me down,' and I'm like 'I'm not lying. This is who I am. I'm going to fight for you and I'm going to learn from you.' And I think honestly, I'm not trying to be glib, but I have learned from the people of this region and I'm humbled by it."

McMurray, who told reporters he's lost 30 pounds since the campaign started, has made an issue of the tribalism and cynicism that has gripped American politics and has vowed to break down those barriers. That, too, will create a responsibility for him if he wins, he said.

"I think a lot of people are so beaten down by politics and they become so pessimistic and just so dismissive of their political leadership," McMurray said. "For whatever reason, they're starting to feel hope in me in this campaign and I feel a great duty towards them, and on both sides of the aisle.

"Obviously, as a Democrat running here, I'm going to have a bigger burden to prove to Republicans that they can trust me and they can vote for me again."

He said he has run his campaign with little to no Democratic party input or influence and very little help, and vowed that if he won he would not buckle to pressure from Democratic leaders to conform to their views of the world.  

The latest polls show the race a toss-up that will come down to the wire. The state just released updated registration numbers for the NY-27 that may put a little wind behind McMurray's sails. The Democrats registered 1,848 voters compared to only 467 for Republicans.

Previously: Profile: Nate McMurray, Democratic capitalist, bucking the trend of his party

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November 2, 2018 - 5:39pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in NY-27, Nate McMurray, batavia, news.

Press release:

Nate McMurray, Democrat and Working Families Party candidate in NY-27, will be visiting all eight counties this weekend as a part of his grassroots Get Out the Vote effort to talk to as many voters as possible across the district. He will travel to the counties in the following order: Erie, Niagara, Orleans, Genesee, Ontario, Monroe, Livingston, Wyoming. The tour will end with a GOTV rally with Talia Shire, an Oscar-nominated actress of two of the most successful movie franchises in history, the "Rocky" and "Godfather" sagas, at the campaign’s headquarters in Hamburg.

McMurray will be at Tim Hortons, 20 Main St., Batavia at 8:45 a.m., Sunday, for 30 minutes.

November 2, 2018 - 12:18pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Larry Piegza, NY-27, news, notify.

Updated at 2:20 p.m. with additional comments from Piegza.

President Trump "is a traitor." He's "Putin's lap dog." "He colluded with the Russians." These aren't statements you would expect to hear from a candidate for Congress who wears a red MAGA hat and holds himself out as a better choice for Trump Republicans than the current incumbent.

But Larry Piegza has used these phrases in his social media advertising The Batavian has learned.

Shortly after our story about Piegza was published yesterday a reader sent us a link to his advertising history on Facebook.

There's a clear pattern: Before Rep. Chris Collins was arrested by federal authorities on insider trading charges, Piegza attacked both Trump and Collins. Trump as a traitor, Collins as corrupt and unethical.

After Collins was arrested, Piegza donned the MAGA hat and proclaimed himself the only pro-Trump conservative who wasn't also facing criminal charges in the race. He's been selling himself that way to the media and on social media and at campaign appearances ever since.

Asked about the transformation, Piegza issued a statement to The Batavian and said the attacks on Trump were an attempt to draw attention to his campaign. He wanted to offer an alternative to Collins -- who was already facing an ethics investigation -- who wasn't a Democrat but Republicans didn't want to listen to him.

"The problem came up against when I tried to get my message out as a third-party candidate," Piegza said. "When people heard that I was against Collins, they accused me of being a Democrat and walked away.

"Noting that Trump gets a lot of press by making huge, provocative statements, I followed his example and called him out on some issues, namely his over usage of Twitter and his bizarre love of Vladimir Putin. I was doing this to create media buzz and get some free press."

After Collins was arrested, Piegza said he changed his tone because he calculated that in the changed political environment, he would get coverage.

"When Chris Collins was arrested, I panicked (like the rest of the district) when I realized that he couldn't get off the ballot," Piegza said. "Our district might be known as the district that elected a criminal! I dropped my provocative statements because I felt the press would cover me more naturally."

We also asked if the Democrats had anything to do with his campaign. He hasn't responded but that's a suggestion raised by Ellis McNally, who describes herself as a Republican strategist in Western New York, in a piece published on the blogging platform Medium in September.

In his statement, Piegza didn't address that charge directly but he did lead off by saying that there had been a fake candidate in the race early on, one seemingly put up by the Collins team, Mike Zak, as a Green Party candidate (an apparent attempt to draw votes from the Democratic nominee). Zak was eventually found out and he withdrew from the race.

In a follow-up e-mail, Piegza said of the suggestion that the Democrats have something to do with his campaign, "It is false. The Reform party has always supported Chris Collins in the past. In this election throughout the state they are endorsing conservatives. They chose to endorse me because Chris Collins probably broke the law and they wanted an ethical candidate. If the local  GOP offices had just endorsed someone else, I wouldn't be running, and the Reform Party wouldn't have endorsed me."

In a NewsGrowler piece about the controversy, published in May, Piegza is described as supporting the Mueller investigation.

Like Collins, Piegza is a hardline conservative. He is pro-life, pro-2nd Amendment, and for lowering taxes. Unlike Collins, Piegza describes himself as “pro-Mueller,” indicating his support of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into President Trump.

Piegza sent two press releases (one, two) to The Batavian before Collins was federally charged with securities fraud, wire fraud, and lying to the FBI (charges he denies). Neither of them mentioned Trump, though Piegza did say he wanted to return the GOP to its conservative roots.

“Many people are saying we’ve drifted from believing in good fiscal responsibility, ethical values, and a government that stays out of our lives. People are saying they’d like to see us return to these values. I’ve shown that I can make good fiscal decisions that aren’t at the expense of another person. I’d love to help restore the party to a strong ethical foundation.” 

It's a common complaint of NeverTrump Republicans that Trump is pulling the party away from its traditional values.

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After the jump, the complete statement from Piegza:

November 1, 2018 - 5:38pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Larry Piegza, NY-27, news, notify.

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Don't call NY-27 Reform Party candidate Larry Piegza a spoiler. He may be behind in the polls but if the media had just given him as much attention as Chris Collins and Nate McMurray he would be leading those same polls, he believes.

He is, after all, the only not-arrested, not-out-of-jail-on-bail, pro-Trump candidate in the race.

The tech-company CEO says he has the data to prove he is a logical alternative to incumbent Chris Collins, who has a federal court date pending in 2020 on insider trading charges.

"What I did was I had a robocall," Piegza said. "I called every single Republican, conservative, independent and unaffiliated voter that has voted in the last in an off-year election. In five seconds explain it, 'Hi, I'm Larry. I'm a pro-Trump candidate running against Chris Collins. He's the guy who recently got arrested. Would you consider voting a pro-Trump, third-party Republican?' "

In all, his computer dialed 125,000 phone numbers. Of those, 19,000 phones were answered. Of those, 1,900 completed the survey. Of those completing the survey, 59 percent said they would consider voting for a pro-Trump alternative to Collins. Only 22 percent of the respondents said they would still prefer Chris Collins.

"So as soon as they were actually given a choice, people were actually willing to consider a third party conservative," Piegza said during an interview with The Batavian two weeks ago at Moonjava Cafe. "These are the people that actually vote in off-year elections. Interesting. So, I'm actually convinced that if I can just get my name out that clearly I cannot only win this election but if I don't it's because Chris Collins is actually the spoiler."

Piegza entered the race well before Collins was arrested Aug. 8 by federal authorities on charges of securities fraud, wire fraud, and lying to the FBI (charges Collins denies, though has refused to explain), not just because he wanted to run for Congress as a minor-party candidate but because he knew trouble was looming for Collins, who was already facing a Congressional ethics investigation for his dealings with Innate Immunotherapeutics.

For Piegza, who jumped on the Trump "drain the swamp" bandwagon, Collins is just another corrupt politician out to serve himself rather than the voters of the NY-27.

"I actually believe if the liberal media started to actually realize that I am a real candidate, and get my name out there, I believe I have an excellent chance of winning this election."

Piegza shares the president's concern about "fake news" (though he wishes the president would stop calling reporters "the enemy of the people"), so much so that he and software engineers who work for him, created a now-defunct website, Identifact.org, designed to rate reporters and news organizations on their adherence to facts.

The site never gained traction but Piegza has continued to look toward technical tools to help solve democracies' problems.

His other venture is eDemocracy.us

Piegza has big ambitions and eDemocracy is at the heart of his plans, now that his company GAP Technoligies Inc., has reached a sustainable level of success, giving him more time to try and make the world a better place.

"(Collins) never had town hall meetings and I thought to myself, 'well, how can I do better than that?' " Piegza said. "It occurred to me that we should really be putting constituent feedback online. Why can't somebody who is actually in the district and has an opinion on a piece of legislation or wants to contact their congressperson, why can't they just log online, go into a secure website and tell their legislator how to vote?"

According to Piegza, eDemocracy is designed to match constituents with their representatives, contain every piece of legislation coming up for a vote, provide a place to petition representatives on any topic, and allow representatives to explain themselves to the voters. The site is also designed to contain a reservoir of fact-based information to help voters better understand issues so they can provide more informed advice to elected officials.

Piegza has a lot of faith that such a system would temper the partisan divide and get representatives to actually do what their constituents want them to do rather than legislate based on sound bites.

"If we can get the entire United States onto a system like this that it would be really, really exciting because you'd be able to break down each district, what their residents feel," Piegza said.

"This would take all of the politics out of it," he added later, "because you would actually know what the people in the United States want. It's an exciting concept and I really believe it can revolutionize policymaking in the United States."

If elected, Piegza said he will use the system and will vote according to how voters on eDemocracy tell him to vote. If 60 percent of those who log on and express their opinion tell him to vote a certain way, that's how he will vote.

We grilled him on this idea a lot.

For example, as far-fetched, as it sounds, what if the district flipped on Trump and 60 percent of the voters told him to vote to impeach the president? He ran as a pro-Trump candidate. Would he really betray that campaign promise because a poll told him to change his mind?

"That's a great question," Piegza said. "I think most people, given the fact that it's one of the few parts of my platform that I say 'this is what I'm standing for,' I would follow my conscience, most likely," Piegza said. "Obviously, if 80, 90 percent of people said yes, absolutely. We need to oppose this particular Trump policy, yeah I consider it."

Piegza thinks eDemocracy can help untangle complicated topics such as immigration. If eDemocracy were widely used, he said, the country would be less divided over the issue.

"Take something like immigration," Piegza said. "Everyone wants legal immigration, but that means different things to different people. They have different tolerances for various things. So since nobody really has a great handle on what the people want, the parties are fighting. There's all the chaos that's currently going on.

"What would happen if you could administer a survey across the United States and everybody who cares about immigration logs in and completes this 50-question survey? It asks questions like: Do you want a border wall? How much are you willing to pay for a border wall? Do you support DACA? You administer this across the entire United States and you find those places where it's extraordinarily calm, like 80 percent of the people agree that on whatever, like we should have a border wall, and then we craft legislation that's custom tailored to what you know 80 percent of the people want."

That, Piegza said, would make policymaking easier and less political.

However, immigration is also a good example of a policy conflict where facts don't matter to popular opinion. For example, we pointed out, it's well documented that farmers need immigrant labor to help bring the crops in, yet much of the opposition to immigration comes from residents in those same rural counties.

Piegza said he believes if people are given good facts through eDemocracy they will come to the right decisions.

Which brought us to a discussion of climate change, a topic where the data is clear yet some people hold steadfast to the belief that climate change is a hoax.

Piegza said he would approach legislation related to climate change like any other issue that might pop up on eDemocracy. We would want the facts presented, the policy issues fully vetted, and he would vote the way his constituents said he should vote.

"I would consider a carbon tax," Piegza said. "We'd have to figure out how to pull it off so it doesn't damage any businesses or limit small business growth. I believe that we as the United States should be encouraging small businesses in research and development to make sure that we can have businesses that are running more effectively.

We also asked about confirmation bias and the tendency of people to put the belief of their political cohort ahead of what the data says -- people defend their beliefs no matter how wrong on the facts might be presented to them that contradict their beliefs.

It turns out Piegza is well acquainted with confirmation bias. He has a degree in Psychology. He believes eDemocracy can overcome confirmation bias.

"If there's one thing that I could add to our culture or to the United States, it's that there has to be an attempt at getting Democrats and Republicans to see eye to eye," Piegza said. "It is eDemocracy? I'm not saying that's a complete solution or anything like that. What I am saying is that it can't hurt knowing exactly what the Americans feel exactly and what each district feels."

For a guy who believes political harmony can be achieved in the United States, it might be surprising he supports Trump, who calls Democrats "evil" and has a tendency to come up with derogatory nicknames for his opponents ("Lying Ted," "Little Marco," "Low-energy Jeb").  He does wish Trump wouldn't go there.

"He's got he's got a bombastic personality," Piegza said. "He likes charging events and charging words and using explosive phrases. As a leader, I think he should step back from that. I'm a big believer in getting consensus. I'm a big believer that we can make better decisions together. So I'm not a big fan of the explosive language. You know to be perfectly honest, if there's one thing I could do it could be to grab the President's phone and throw it in the toilet."

November 1, 2018 - 11:30am
posted by Howard B. Owens in NY-27, Nate McMurray, news.

Press release:

Nate McMurray, Democrat and Working Families Party candidate for Congress in NY-27, today pledged to vote against any cuts to Medicare and Social Security once he is elected.

"Social Security and Medicare are vitally important to so many folks, who now live in fear that these programs will be cut by politicians in Washington," McMurray said. "My opponent voted to create the deficit that is now being used as a justification for these cuts; he was wrong then, and he’s wrong now if he refuses to take this pledge.

"These are programs that seniors have paid into their entire lives and benefits they have earned. But Chris Collins lacks the independence to stand up for our seniors, and the integrity to admit that he was wrong."

McMurray has made Social Security and healthcare key components of his campaign, a stark contrast to indicted incumbent Chris Collins who has a 0 percent rating from the Alliance for Retired Americans.

McMurray believes Social Security and Medicare are earned benefits, and he notes that many senior citizens of Western New York and across the country depend on them to survive. He believes in protecting coverage for preexisting conditions and making healthcare accessible to all Americans.

October 31, 2018 - 10:43am
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, news, Nate McMurray.

Press release:

For the second time in the past year, indicted incumbent Chris Collins has ducked high school student who want to hear from their representative. Nate McMurray, Democrat and Working Families Party candidate who is challenging Collins in NY-27, condemned Collins for his refusal to engage with high school students and failure to participate in any debates with less than a week before the election.

"It says a lot about a guy if he’s too scared to talk to high school students, and it makes it even worse when it’s his job to listen to the people he represents,” McMurray said. “In the spring, it was Clarence students wanting to talk about gun violence in schools.

Today, it was St. Joe’s students who have proudly hosted debates for the last 30 years. These aren’t political operatives or insiders, they’re young people who will be the future of our country and who just want to have a voice in the discussion.”

In April, Collins declined an invitation to a “Town Hall for Our Lives” hosted by Clarence High School students, calling the students “radical partisans.”

Today, St. Joe’s learned that Collins planned to skip the debate from a local radio broadcast. McMurray attended both events and plans to meet with Clarence High School students on Friday. He will also be at the forum hosted by the League of Women Voters.

"It’s typical of millionaires like Collins to look down on voters like us, and he just doesn’t have the backbone or character to talk with students or debate. Eleven felony counts, out on bail and a flight risk, and he just makes himself more of an embarrassment to our community with his cowardice. He’s got one more chance today, and then it’s three strikes and he’s out -- of office!”

October 29, 2018 - 2:37pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in NY-27, Nate McMurray, news.

Press release:

Nate McMurray, Democrat and Working Families Party candidate, today released a new poll showing that he is ahead by 4 points, with 47 percent of the respondents saying they will support McMurray against indicted incumbent Chris Collins.

Since the indictment in early August, McMurray has surged in the polls, earned endorsements from both the Buffalo News and conservative New York Post, and the race has been added to the DCCC’s “Red to Blue” list.

"The people of Western New York are done with the embarrassment Chris Collins has brought on our region," McMurray said. "Republicans, Democrats and independents know that it’s time to put country before party and reject a Congressman who’s out on bail. There is no stopping this movement, and we are ready to win on Election Day."

The poll also showed that Collins has a 51 percent unfavorability, while McMurray’s name recognition has surged -- 74 percent of respondents know about McMurray.

The poll was conducted by Tulchin Research from Oct. 25th to Oct. 28th and had a sample size of 400 people. The results showed that 47 percent supporting McMurray, 43 percent for Collins, and 4 percent for Reform Party candidate Larry Piegza. The margin of error is ±4 percent.

The polling memo can be viewed here.

NOTE: The FiveThirtyEight poll, with results through Oct. 26, shows Collins with a slim margin. The New York Times poll also gives Collins a small edge. It also carries this disclaimer (true of all polling): "It’s just one poll, and we’ve talked to only 486 people. Each candidate’s total could easily be five points different if we polled everyone in the district. And having a small sample is only one possible source of error."

October 25, 2018 - 5:47pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in NY-27, Nate McMurray, news.

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Press release:

Nate McMurray, Democrat and Working Families Party candidate in NY-27, was joined today by Vice President Joe Biden at The Olive Tree Restaurant, where the two greeted voters and talked about McMurray’s campaign for Congress.

Former Vice President Biden is the most high-profile leader to stump for McMurray, who has been gaining momentum as two recent polls showed a virtual dead heat following the incumbent Chris Collins’ indictment.

“I grew up with people very similar to the residents of this district, not that far from here,” said former Vice President Biden.  “Hardworking middle-class families who just want leaders who understand their challenges and work to make their lives better. It’s about creating jobs that the working families of New York can live on. Making sure their kids have safe streets and good schools, and the opportunity for a decent life.

"Folks here put country before party because they know that it’s the right thing to do. And that’s why I’m proud to support Nate because he’ll fight for those families, every day, and give them the kind of Representative they deserve.

“Vice President Biden is a prime example of a leader who has dedicated his life to serving our country and always standing up for working and middle-class families like ours.  It’s an honor to have his support,” McMurray said.

With less than two weeks to go, McMurray’s campaign has generated excitement across New York and the country as he takes on the indicted incumbent Chris Collins. Last week, the race was added to the DCCC’s “Red to Blue” list as two polls confirmed that it is neck-and-neck.

October 25, 2018 - 12:28pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, Larry Piegza, news.

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Press release:

Pro-Trump Reform Party candidate Larry Piegza showed up to the Steve Bannon rally in Elma with a cardboard cutout of Chris Collins dressed in a prison jumpsuit.  

"I knew that Collins wasn't going to show his face at the rally, and I wanted people to know exactly how he might be representing our district," Piegza said. "My internal polling shows that Collins has already lost this election.

"The fact is, many people are too moral to vote for someone who has most likely to have broken the law. The only question that remains is if enough people vote for me or if we let the district go to a Democrat."

While police had told Piegza that he must stand with the rest of the protesters, Piegza stated that he doesn't want to be counted as a protester due to the fact that he supports the rest of the Republican ticket.

"I'll be voting down-ballot red this election," Piegza said. "I recommend that others do the same, except obviously for NY -27.  Voters are going to have to make a choice on whether they want to vote for a potential criminal in Chris Collins or for an ethical Republican. 

You can find out more about Piegza's campaign at FixItLarry.org or hear about him at the upcoming debate at Saint Joe's Collegiate Institute on Oct. 30th or at the League of Women Voters Candidates Forum on Oct. 30th at the Aurora Senior Citizens Center in East Aurora.

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