Indicted Republican U.S. Rep. Chris Collins declared victory Tuesday in his western New York district, saying a count of absentee ballots preserved his lead over Democratic challenger Nate McMurray.
“Congressman Collins led and won on election night and maintained that lead during the entire recanvassing process,” Collins’ campaign spokeswoman Natalie Baldassarre said in a statement.
In another undecided New York race, Democrat Anthony Brindisi said Tuesday that updated vote counts show he will defeat Republican U.S. Rep. Claudia Tenney in the central part of the state.
The Associated Press has not called either race, and neither McMurray nor Tenney has conceded. Both races were too close to call on election night, prompting a wait as officials counted thousands of absentee ballots.
In Collins’ heavily Republican 27th Congressional District, which gave President Donald Trump his biggest margin of victory of any in the state in 2016, fewer than 3,000 votes separated the candidates on Election Day.
After the last of more than 10,000 absentee ballots were tallied Tuesday, Erie County Republican Election Commissioner Ralph Mohr said it was “mathematically improbable” for McMurray to win. Collins’ lead had shrunk to 1,384 with more than 900 affidavit ballots and an unknown number of military and federal ballots still to be counted.
McMurray’s campaign said it would not have a statement until Wednesday.
Collins, one of the first members of Congress to support Trump’s presidential run, is scheduled for trial in early 2020 on charges he leaked information about a biopharmaceutical company that allowed his son and others to avoid nearly $800,000 in stock losses. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of insider trading and lying to the FBI.
Collins initially dropped out of the race after the August indictment, then restarted his campaign a month later as Republican leaders were deliberating who would replace him on the ballot.
“The stakes are too high to allow the radical left to take control of this seat in Congress,” he said at the time.
McMurray, town supervisor of Grand Island, saw his campaign pick up steam amid Collins’ legal troubles. He reported raising more than a half-million dollars in three months and, with polls showing a close race, landed on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s “Red to Blue” list for national support.
Before Collins’ arrest, the incumbent’s re-election was seen as all but certain, and McMurray’s campaign struggled to attract the attention of donors and the national party.
A conviction would likely lead to Collins’ resignation from Congress. The most serious charge carries a potential prison term of up to 20 years.
Tenney, serving in her first term, also was an early Trump supporter whose brash rhetoric drew comparisons to the president’s. The district, the 22nd, supported Trump in 2016 and Trump endorsed Tenney for re-election.
As of Tuesday evening, Brindisi, a lawyer and state assemblyman, was beating Tenney by more than 4,000 votes after additional absentee ballots were counted. About 1,900 ballots remained to be tallied.
“I’m humbled that I’ll have the honor to represent this district in Congress,” Brindisi said in a statement emailed to reporters. “Now that this campaign is behind us, I look forward to a smooth transition with Congresswoman Tenney to ensure that we hit the ground running in January.”
A winner won’t be declared in either race until state election officials certify the final results, something that may not happen until next month.
Associated Press writer David Klepper in Albany contributed to this report.