Collins Resigns; Thornberry to Retire

By Jim Ellis

Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY)

Oct. 2, 2019 — Reportedly planning to plead guilty to an insider trading charge after being indicted last year, Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) resigned his seat in the House, officially informing Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) Monday of his intentions.

Despite having an indictment hanging over his head, Rep. Collins won a close re-election in NY-27 — normally a safe Republican upstate district that occupies all or parts of eight counties in the region’s rural area east of Buffalo and south of Rochester.

The congressman defeated Democrat Nate McMurray, a Grand Island town supervisor, by a razor-thin 49.1 – 48.8 percent spread, a margin of just 1,087 votes. Clearly the indictment played a major role in the outcome being so close, as Collins’ re-election percentages were an identical 67.2 percent in 2014 and 2016 after unseating then-Rep. Kathy Hochul (D) in the 2012 general election.

Anticipating an open seat or a weakened Collins seeking re-nomination, several Republicans had already announced their intentions to run. Two state senators, Chris Jacobs (R-Buffalo) and Rob Ortt (R-Lockport), are already in the race as is attorney and former town judge Beth Parlato. The 2018 Democratic nominee, McMurray, is also a declared candidate.

It is likely that other Republicans will jump into either the special election, if it is called, or the regular election now that it is an open seat race. It is also likely that Democratic leaders will make sure that McMurray has a clean shot for re-nomination in order to make him as strong as possible against a different GOP nominee.

The New York state primary is scheduled for June 23. The eventual GOP nominee should begin as a favorite to hold the seat.


As has been speculated upon for a number of weeks, veteran Texas Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Clarendon/Amarillo) announced that he will not seek a 14th term next year saying simply that “for everything there is a season, and I believe that the time has come for a change. Therefore, this is my last term in the U.S. House of Representatives.”

Thornberry represents the strongest Trump district in the United States. The president scored an 80-17 percent victory over Hillary Clinton here in 2016. Mitt Romney posted a similar 80-19 percent spread in 2012 against Barack Obama. Thus, there is little doubt that Rep. Thornberry’s replacement will come from the Republican primary.

Over the course of his long 26-year congressional career, Thornberry averaged 78.1 percent of the vote in his 13 elections, and 80 percent in his dozen re-election campaigns. Already, Amarillo City Councilwoman Elaine Hays (R) and Josh Winegarner, the government relations director for the Texas Cattle Feeders Association, are confirming that they are considering entering the open race.

Thornberry becomes the sixth Texas Republican House member to announce that he won’t seek re-election in 2020. Nationally, there are now 23 open House districts, 18 of which come from the Republican side.

The 13th CD occupies the Texas Panhandle, stretching from the Oklahoma Panhandle border along the Red River all the way through Wichita Falls and close to the outer Dallas-Ft. Worth suburbs. The district includes 39 counties and parts of two others. Amarillo is the district’s largest city, which touches two counties, Potter and Randall. Together, the region houses about 240,000 people. Wichita Falls, in a county of 131,000 is the second largest population center.

Texas has scheduled its state primary concurrently with the Super Tuesday presidential primary on March 3. If no candidate secures a majority, a run-off election will occur for the respective party contenders on May 26. The candidate filing deadline is Dec. 9, so we will know in relatively short order exactly how the candidate field will take shape.

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