Five candidates are now competing for the Democratic Party nomination to challenge Chris Collins in the 27th congressional district after Grand Island Town Supervisor Nate McMurray and political activist Joan Elizabeth Seamans announced their candidacy this past week.
McMurray said he’s confident democrats have a good shot at defeating Collins this year.
“You find me someone who really really wants to vote for Chris Collins,” said McMurray. “There’s not anyone out there who has the passion to vote for this man. So the challenge we face is educating the public. You can’t just vote the party lines. But I have been out there. I’ve been meeting people. I’ve been talking to people. And people have been coming aware that we need a change. And frankly a lot of people are saying anybody besides Chris.”
Challenging incumbent Republican Chris Collins won’t be easy. He won the district’s 2016 election with 67 percent of the vote. McMurray said the last election left a lot of people behind. He wants to see more accountability from Congress.
“Whether you hate me or you like me, I’ll sit there and I’ll listen to ya,” said McMurray. “I think as a small town supervisor I’ve had to learn that you have to sit in front of people and listen and hear them, and there’s times where it’s awkward and times where it’s even embarrassing. But public accountability is important. I think that’s one reason why people want different representation.”
Seamans is the first woman to enter the race. 84 woman currently make up 19.3% of the United States House of Representatives.
“When you look at government, how can we represent the masses if we aren’t represented in power and decision making?,” said Seamans. “I think that’s critical. I just think you need to have a balance.”
The tax bill is a topical issue many democrats will be talking about in this year’s election. Seamans is one of them.
“When you look at the tax breaks and 80 percent of them are going to the wealthiest people in the country,” said Seamans, “and that leaves 20 percent for regular folks, you say, ‘How can you fund anything that will benefit Middle America?’… I believe in trickle-up economics.”
Seamans is looking to run a grassroots campaign while advocating for campaign finance reform.
“The politicians say thank you very much and they shoot out legislation that benefits their donors,” said Seamans. “Then their donors become wealthier and their corporations grow and they fund the campaigns again and the cycle continues. What happens is, there are regular people, like us people in the 27th (district) and they’re not even involved in the loop.”
Seamans believes the election could cost between 2 to 5 million dollars or maybe more.
“The reality is, for someone like me, we look for grassroots. We look for people with small donations. Unfortunately on the other side, they get their donations from people that are hoping for influence,” said Seamans.
Both Seamans and McMurray have years of experience working in Western New York.
“For four years I spent time with families in the 27th (district) whose children were suffering from drug addiction and behavioral issues, said Seamans. “I also ran a program for six years where we brought talented youth to elderly folks who didn’t have the money or the ability to get out.”
McMurray’s family has lived in the area for several generations. He’s also multi-lingual and studied in both China and Korea as a scholar—something he thinks will make him stand out as a candidate.
“I have had extensive experience living and working abroad and represented some of the biggest companies in the world including Samsung Electronics and locally Delaware North,” said McMurray. “So I know how to get a deal done.”
When McMurray announced his candidacy Sunday, he was shocked to see the number of people who attended.
“I have never been a part… I mean I know I am bias because it was an event where I was announcing my run for Congress… but I have never been a part of a political event with that type of energy in the room,” said McMurray. “And it could not have all been for me. It has to be for the reason that some people or so many people… they just want someone who will really represent them.”
McMurray said he’s unsure what the polling data says currently, but thinks there’s a hunger for change.
Sean Bunny, Tom Casey, and Nick Stankevich are the other candidates vying for the nomination. Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy Zellner said party leaders in the 27th district will meet with the candidates soon before making a decision on an endorsement.