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As Collins denies charges, McMurray makes promises in Rochester

Nate McMurray spoke at the New York State United Teachers headquarters on North Union Street in Rochester. (WHAM photo)

Rochester, N.Y. (WHAM) - The Democratic challenger in the race for New York's 27th Congressional District was in Rochester Thursday - and there was little guess as to what he was going to discuss.

Nate McMurray spoke at the New York State United Teachers headquarters on North Union Street in Rochester, talking about the intention of his opponent - Chris Collins - to remain in the Congressional race despite his indictment on federal charges.

On Wednesday, the Republican Congressman was charged with insider trading and lying to the FBI, according to a federal criminal complaint. In June 2017, Collins allegedly used non-public information from an Australian biotech firm to tip off his son, Cameron Collins, to sell stock in the firm ahead of a failed clinical trial for a drug that treated multiple sclerosis. Collins was serving as a board member at the time.

By selling millions of shares ahead of the public announcement about the drug's failed trials, the congressman's son and everyone who was tipped off ahead of time avoided losing approximately $768,600, according to court paperwork.

McMurray said Collins' arrest has brought him more attention than he had in the race to his point. His campaign has turned around completely the last 24 hours - raising tens of thousands of dollars.

He says he's even gotten a call from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee since Collins' arrest. That committee, he says, once ignored him, but is now offering help.

"They were using the same algorithm that told them that Hillary Clinton would win in a landslide is the same algorithm that told them that we didn't have a chance," said McMurray. "We always had a chance; now, it's added kerosene to the fire."

McMurray was surrounded by supporters during his visit to Rochester- among them, a Mendon woman who says she voted for Collins in the last election.

"I got really angry, because he's not supposed to be feathering his own nest and that of his friends, he's supposed to be protecting us," said voter Cecily Molak.

Even in a deeply Republican district, McMurray says he is going to beat Collins in November. He said anything less would be a shame.

"He is embarrassing," McMurray said of Collins. "This is a national story that is embarrassing our region. We are going to do our best to make sure that doesn't happen."

But it could happen.

According to the Monroe County Board of Elections, an indictment or a conviction can't prompt the removal of Collins' name off the ballot.

Doug French, the Republican Commissioner at the BOE, says at this point in the year, Collins can only be removed from the ballot if he dies, or if declined the nomination.

"It's not impossible, but it's very difficult. The calendar doesn't allow changes this late in the game," said French.

French says his office has been getting calls from voters since news of the charges against Collins broke. He says they've been asking about a special election.

But French says a special election can't be held, as the deadline has passed.

McMurray is currently the town supervisor for Grand Island in Erie County.

According to the Federal Election Commission, Collins has more than $1.3 million in his campaign account, while McMurray has just over $81,000 (As of June 30, 2018).

The general election is set for Tuesday, November 6.

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