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Collins declares victory in 24th District after absentee count

Indicted Republican U.S. Rep. Chris Collins declared victory Tuesday in his western New York district, saying a count of absentee ballots preserved his lead over Democratic challenger Nate McMurray.

“Congressman Collins led and won on election night and maintained that lead during the entire recanvassing process,” Collins’ campaign spokeswoman Natalie Baldassarre said in a statement.

With fewer than 3,000 votes separating the candidates on Election Day, the race was deemed too close to call in the heavily Republican 27th Congressional District, which gave President Donald Trump his biggest margin of victory of any in the state in 2016.

After the last of more than 10,000 absentee ballots were tallied Tuesday, Erie County Republican Election Commissioner Ralph Mohr said it was “mathematically improbable” for McMurray to win. Collins’ lead had shrunk to 1,384 with more than 900 affidavit ballots and an unknown number of military and federal ballots still to be counted.

McMurray’s campaign said it would not have a statement until Wednesday. The Associated Press has not called the race.

Collins, one of the first members of Congress to support Trump’s presidential run, is scheduled for trial in early 2020 on charges he leaked information about a biopharmaceutical company that allowed his son and others to avoid nearly $800,000 in stock losses. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of insider trading and lying to the FBI.

Collins initially dropped out of the race after the August indictment, then restarted his campaign a month later as Republican leaders were deliberating who would replace him on the ballot.

“The stakes are too high to allow the radical left to take control of this seat in Congress,” he said at the time.

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