Clarence Town Board members may resign to make room for indicted Chris Collins

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US Representative Chris Collins may soon be a candidate for Clarence Town Board
US Representative Chris Collins may soon be a candidate for Clarence Town Board

Members of the Clarence Town Board may be facing pressure to resign their seats to make way for indicted US Representative Chris Collins.

Clarence Town Board – political dumping ground?

According to a story in the Bullfalo News, disgraced local congressman Chris Collins may soon be a candidate for Clarence Town Board.

Collins was arrested by the FBI in early August for insider trading and making false statements. Allegedly, Collins engaged in insider trading on his cell phone at a White House picnic.

Days after his arrest, Collins announced his intention to withdraw from the upcoming midterm elections in November. There is just one problem: New York State law does not allow a candidate to simply drop out of a race. They have to be disqualified.

The options for self-disqualification, other than death, are limited and all require some level bad faith on the part of the candidate. The most common of these is to seek another office, falling foul of New York’s rule that candidates can only seek one office.

As a resident of Clarence, New York, Collins meets the residency requirement to serve on the Clarence Town Board. If he ran for a seat it would neatly solve the problem. Surely the good people of Clarence will not mind having a disgraced Congressman appear on their local ballots?

Robert Geiger: “I really like what I’m doing.”

The only problem with this plan is there are no elections for the Clarence Town Board scheduled this cycle. If a board member resigned, however, that would force a special election that Collins could be parachuted into.

According to the Buffalo News story, speculation is focusing on Robert Geiger, 80, who has served on the town board since 2011. Unfortunately, Geiger appears less than enthusiastic about giving up his seat.

“I’d really have to run it over with my wife and family,” he told the News. “You know what? I really like what I’m doing.”

Collins’ situation is a surprisingly common one in New York State thanks to its system of fusion voting. Parties like the Conservative Party or Working Families Party will frequently nominate Republican and Democratic candidates respectively, only to see their chosen candidate lose their major party primary and withdraw.

Although losing candidates will frequently agree to run for a down-ballot office to remove themselves from minor party ballot lines, Joe Crowley famously refused and remains on the Working Families Party against Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez this November.

Who will run on the GOP line in NY-14?

Meanwhile, there is no clear replacement for Collins’ position as the Republican nominee for the New York 14th Congressional District. Former Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino, most famous for his racist remarks about Michelle Obama, is a contender.

But there is no clear-cut successor to Collins’ nomination yet, and may not be for some time. Erie County GOP chair Nick Langworthy recently told the New York Times, “We went from what we thought was going to be a quick process to what is a more belabored process.”

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