Republican activists are asking Congressman Chris Collins to step down his reelection effort following an indictment by the Southern District of New York for insider trading and providing false information to a federal agent.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is calling Collins’ indictment representative of a “rampant culture of corruption and self-enrichment” among congressional Republicans. Collins’ 27th district is a solidly Republican-enrolled district that had been held by Kathy Hochul, Chris Lee, and Tom Reynolds in recent years.
State Senator Rob Ortt is being urged to replace Collins on the ballot. Ortt served in the National Gaurd, including a tour of duty in Afghanistan, earning the rank of First Lieutenant. He was elected Mayor of North Tonawanda, serving from 2010-14. He was elected to the State Senate following the retirement of George Maziarz in 2014.
Political observers are worried that Collins’ national scandal could be used to draw the stark class divides that doomed Jane Corwin‘s bid for the seat in a 2011 special election. Though in that race, Kathy Hochul was branding herself as a conservative and had a faux Tea Party candidate in Jack Davis to split the vote on the right. Even under those circumstances, she only narrowly won and briefly held the seat.
The district is so safely Republican that replacing Collins’ name on the ballot could be the makings of a decades-long political career in the House of Representatives. Operatives want a young-ish, emerging political contender with a strong track record, impressive resume, and a healthy ambition on the House Speakership within a decade’s time.
Besides Ortt, a few more names are being floated for the nomination.
Todd Aldinger is an attorney and a graduate of Princeton University with roots in Akron. He served as the Chairman of Erie County’s Charter Review Commission and is seen as a deft politico who is active in the party. He once served as Chief of Staff to Senator Patrick Gallivan.
Chris Grant is a former Chief of Staff for Collins and is widely seen as a key figure in the Erie County Republican Party’s organization. His close relationship with Democrat political operative G. Steven Pigeon may make his nomination less likely.
Erin Baker is seen as a rising star in the party, despite her well-funded loss for Amherst Town Council. She is a charismatic and personable politico whose extensive networks in state politics are seen as potent resources.
Nick Langworthy chairs the Erie County Republican Party organization and has well-known ambitions on the state chairmanship. If Marc Molinaro and his downstate organization, led by Vince Casale, take the Governor’s mansion, it could make Langworthy’s bid for the state chairmanship less likely. Perhaps he could be convinced to play the role of the Congressional backbencher for a decade or two.
Under normal circumstances, Collins’ successor would be either Gallivan or Senator Chris Jacobs, two well known and well liked Republicans who, as a matter of social status, age, and record of public service, are seen as ‘next in line.’
But Gallivan is seen by many party stalwarts as too old to become House Speaker — a project that might take 12 years of tenure simply to cultivate the relationships required to contend for the position– and Jacobs is too concerned about percolating scandals that surround a suspect succession of campaign contributions surrounding a contraversial vote, that he is unlikely to invite the scrutiny of a congressional contest.