Rep. Chris Collins after being arraigned on August 8, 2018 (BRYAN R SMITH/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)
Embattled upstate Republican congressman Chris Collins announced on Saturday that he would suspend his re-election campaign, days after being indicted for insider trading. He cited the Democrats’ desire to take back the House and impeach President Trump as impetus for his decision.
Federal prosecutors accused Collins, who was the first member of Congress to endorse Trump’s presidential bid, of taking not-yet-public information from biotech company Innate Immunotherapeutics about a failed drug test and using that to benefit his son Cameron, and his son’s fiancee’s family. Collins, as an Innate board member, got details about the failed test and called his son immediately, feds say. There’s even video Collins making the alleged calls during the White House Congressional Picnic last year.
Cameron Collins and his fiancee’s father, Stephen Zarsky, were also charged. According to the Buffalo News’ timeline, “When he spoke with his father by phone, Cameron was at the home in Asbury Park, N.J., that he shared with his girlfriend and future fiancee, Lauren Zarsky, 25. She, too, was an Innate stockholder and, because of her recommendation, so were her parents, Stephen and Dorothy Zarsky. ‘I’ll make sure Cam’s dad keeps us in the loop,’ Lauren Zarsky once told them, according to federal investigators.”
Here is Collins’ statement:
“Democrats are laser focused on taking back the House, electing Nancy Pelosi Speaker and then launching impeachment proceedings against President Trump. They would like nothing more than to elect an ‘Impeach Trump’ Democrat in this District, which is something that neither our country or my party can afford.
After extensive discussions with my family and my friends over the last few, days, I have decided that it is in the best interests of the constituents of NY-27, the Republican Party and President Trump’s agenda for me to suspend my campaign for re-election to Congress.
I will fill out the remaining few months of my terms to assure that our community maintains its vote in Congress to support President Trump’s agenda to create jobs, eliminate regulations, reduce the size of government, address immigration and lower taxes.
I will also continue to fight the meritless charges brought against me and I look forward to having my good name cleared of any wrongdoing.”
The Democrat challenging Collins is Nate McMurray, 43, who is a town supervisor in Grand Island, NY. He told Politico, after Collins’ indictment, “None of the Democratic leadership wanted anything to do with me. In some ways they thought I was too conservative; they thought I was too raw. No support was there before. There was zero. I went to go see the folks at the DCCC, and they were very corporate and it was a very uninspiring meeting. It’s been me at potlucks and picnics up until this point. But that’s changed in the last 24 hours. They suddenly think this is an opportunity.”
Governor Cuomo had wanted his lieutenant, Kathy Hochul, to run against Collins, but she declined. Hochul, who spent a year serving the 26th District, recently claimed she didn’t regret not jumping into the race, “I loved my time in Congress but I can have a much greater impact, statewide, to help the people of my former district and even the entire state as lieutenant governor.”
Before Collins announced his campaign suspension, McMurray Tweeted, “I can’t believe, several days after this news, that my opponent is still in this race and that the Republican establishment is not saying in unison ‘resign.’ Mr. Collins, please do the right thing. Step down. They knew this was coming You should’ve never even been endorsed.”