As of Monday morning August 13th, fifteen people have expressed interest in being nominated to fill Congressman Chris Collins' (R-Amherst) seat, after Congressman Collins announced that he is suspending his campaign for re-election. The announcement follows Collins' indictment on federal charges of insider trading and lying to the FBI.
However, getting changes to the November ballot are going to be very difficult, explained Erie County Republican Board of Elections Commissioner Ralph Mohr. "His name remains on the ballot and there is no event, at this point, that has taken Congressman Collins' name off the ballot."
Removing Collins from the General Election ballot in November could only happen in the case of death, disqualification or nomination to another office.
Some believe Collins could be disqualified if he changed his residency to outside of the 27th congressional district. "Maybe" - said Ralph More, who said a previous lawsuit on the residency issue concerning former Congressman Chris Lee, from the same district, found that residency was not a sufficient reason for removal from the ballot.
What if Collins were to resign now? "His name would still remain on the ballot," added Mohr.
As to nomination for other office, Ralph Mohr said in New York State only NYS Supreme Court positions can be nominated but qualifications require 10-years experience as an attorney - something Congressman Collins does not have.
Many of the names being considered as possible replacements already hold state office, and because they are up for re-election, they cannot run for both a state office and congressional seat at the same time. "They would have to chose one or the other," commented Mohr.
Another complicating factor is money. Ralph Mohr said candidates cannot use their state campaign money to run for a federal office due to differences in state and federal law.
What happens to the votes Collins could get in the election? Mohr said they would still go to the congressman, and if there are enough, could lead to Collins being declared the winner of the race.
If that happens, Congressman Collins could then resign his seat in January 2019 which would trigger a special election that would open up opportunities for all those interested in the seat. "We saw the same thing after Congressman Lee resigned. It was a special election that allowed Kathy Hochul (D) to become the congresswoman for the 27th district," said Mohr.
Whatever happens in this race has to take place by September 20th, explained Mohr, who said military and absentee ballots need to be mailed out 45 days before the general election.
Commissioner Mohr shares more explanations in the attached clip.