Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez weighed in on a few Western New York races during a Wednesday evening visit to Buffalo.
Perez, who grew up in the Queen City, helped Democrat Nate McMurray make a late push for New York’s 27th Congressional District in 2018. McMurray ultimately lost to incumbent Republican Chris Collins by less than half a percentage point.
The congressman was facing federal charges related to insider trading then and still is, with a trial currently scheduled for February 2020.
“The fact that he has refused to resign, that’s not in the best interest of that remarkable district,” Perez said.
The chairman, also a former federal prosecutor, said he believes Collins will be convicted. He said phone records of Collins speaking with family members about the state of pharmaceutical stock they owner will be the “star witness” in the case.
“He’s dishonest and he will get convicted and I think he’s using his office as leverage for a plea negotiation,” Perez said. “That’s what it’s about and that’s shameful.”
Collins has yet to announce whether he will run for the seat again in 2020 while a stable of Republicans are lining up to primary him. He has flatly rejected the insinuation he’s using his seat as a bargaining chip and has maintained his innocence.
Meanwhile, McMurray is the only Democrat to announce so far, but Perez did not totally commit to him Wednesday.
“I am all in for whoever the nominee is,” he said. “We will not get involved in the primary process. We will leave that up to the great voters but I think voters want leaders with integrity and that’s what I love about Western New York.”
The DNC chairman also brought up this year’s Erie County executive race, connecting Republican-endorsed candidate Lynne Dixon to the indicted congressman.
“What’s equally remarkable is that the campaign manager for Mark Poloncarz’s opponent was the right-hand person on the Collins campaign. So if you think Chris Collins was good for Buffalo, well they’re trying to bring Chris Collins back to Erie County as well, so I’m all in for Mark.”
Poloncarz’s campaign has repeatedly questioned, including in a recent TV ad, why Dixon is employing Collins’ associate Chris Grant. But Dixon’s campaign said Grant was never campaign manager and rather has consulted.
Bryan Fiume, who said he’s actually been campaign manager all along, returned fire.
“Mark should be revisiting his campaign team, not us, he’s the one having a tough time,” Fiume said. “We aren’t worried about his comments, we remain focused on an infrastructure in disrepair, lead paint on playground equipment, high taxes and politics, like this, infiltrating Erie county government. Lynne Dixon isn’t Chris Collins and unfortunately for Mark, he’s not running against Chris Collins this time.”