Collins’ seat up for grabs, but filling House vacancies can be a slow process


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Rep. Chris Collins (R-27) resigned from the U.S. House of Representatives Monday afternoon. The congressman is expected to plead guilty in federal court Tuesday in connection to insider trading charges.

The question now is, who will take his place in Congress?

Filling vacancies in the House of Representatives can be a tedious process. A special election can be put forth, but it can also be put on hold based on timing. For reference, Gov. Andrew Cuomo didn’t put forth a special election when Congresswoman Louise Slaughter died, and instead, the vacancy existed until Rep. Joe Morelle won the general election for the seat.

According to the Constitution: “When vacancies happen in the Representation from any State, the Executive Authority thereof shall issue Writs of Election to fill such Vacancies.”

According to History of the House, vacancies can be caused by death, resignation, declination, withdrawal, or House action, but the Constitution requires that they be filled by election. The law concerning Members elected to fill vacancies varies according to when the vacancy occurs and applicable state law.

All states, territories, and districts require special elections to fill any vacant House seats during the first session of a Congress. During the second session of a Congress, however, procedures often vary depending on the amount of time between the vacancy and the next general election. Section 8 of Title 2, United States Code, provides that a state governor can cause a special election in extraordinary circumstances; namely, a crisis in which the number of House vacancies exceeds 100.

The process of holding a special election can take months, and even if one is held, and a winner is determined, the seat will be back up for grabs in the 2020 election. As of now, no decision has been made on what will happen with the seat.

Regardless, names of Western New York names are already being floated as possible replacements.

New York State Sen. Rob Ortt thinks he’s the man for the job. The Republican released this statement shortly after the news of Collins’ resignation broke:

“It is vital that we continue to have a strong, conservative voice representing the residents of New York’s 27th Congressional District and elect a candidate who will defend President Trump’s agenda. I am the only candidate in this race who has proven that they are willing to do both. It is time that we send a battle-tested patriot to Washington who will stand up for our district, stand up to the Party of Impeachment, and push back against the radical socialists running our nation’s Democrat Party.” 

Nate McMurray, a former Grand Island town supervisor, lost a close race for the seat to Collins in 2018 and has since announced that he will be running again in 2020.

Another potential GOP candidate is recent Medal of Honor recipient David Bellavia. A group of western New York Republicans has already courted Bellavia to run for Congress.

Bellavia supporters launched on in July. Led by political consultant Michael Caputo, organizers say the campaign-style website is meant to show Bellavia the level of support for a possible candidacy.

Bellavia, who received the Medal of Honor from President Donald Trump earlier this year, hasn’t ruled out a run. However, he’s said he is not interested in using the award to bolster his chances of getting elected.

It’s still too early to tell who could potentially fill Collins’ congressional role, or if a special election will be called ahead of next year’s general election, but the race is now officially on for NY-27.

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