Chris Collins (U.S. politician)

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Chris Collins
Chris Collins Updated Official Portrait 113th Congress.jpg
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 27th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2013
Preceded by Brian Higgins
7th Erie County Executive
In office
Preceded by Joel Giambra
Succeeded by Mark Poloncarz
Personal details
Born Christopher Carl Collins
(1950-05-20) May 20, 1950 (age 66)
Schenectady, New York, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Mary Sue Collins
Children Carly Collins Coleman (1976)
Caitlin Christine Collins (1991)
Cameron Christopher Collins (1993)
Parents Gerald Edward Collins
Constance Messier Collins
Residence Clarence, New York, U.S.
Alma mater North Carolina State University 1972 – Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering
University of Alabama at Birmingham 1975 – MBA
Occupation Businessman, Politician
Religion Roman Catholicism

Christopher Carl "Chris" Collins (born May 20, 1950) is an American politician and member of the Republican Party who has been the United States Representative for New York's 27th congressional district since 2013. Previously he was the County Executive of Erie County, New York from 2007 to 2011. He is a resident of Clarence, New York.[1]

Early life, education, and business career[edit]

Born in Schenectady, New York, in 1950, Collins moved around the country with his family as his father was transferred several times by General Electric.[2] Collins graduated from Hendersonville High School in Hendersonville, North Carolina, in 1968[3] and was inducted into the Hendersonville High School Hall of Fame in 2013.[4] He received a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from North Carolina State University in 1972 where he was a member of Sigma Pi fraternity.[5] He then earned an MBA from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 1975.[1]

Collins spent thirty-five years in the business world.[citation needed] As an entrepreneur he was the founder, President and CEO of Nuttall Gear Corporation located in Niagara Falls, New York.[1] Nuttall Gear was a 1983 leveraged buyout of the Westinghouse Electric Gear Division located in Buffalo, New York.[6] Collins sold Nuttall in 1997 to a large industrial conglomerate.[6]

After losing a race for Congress in 1998, Collins purchased or invested in over twenty bankrupt and financially troubled companies. These companies were combined into several platform companies. His current companies include: Innate Immunotherapeutics,[7] Bloch Industries, Easom Automation, Mead Supply, Oxygen Generating Systems Intl., Schlyer Machine, Volland Electric and ZeptoMetrix Corporation.[8]

Collins was inducted into the North Carolina State University Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department Hall of Fame in November 2015.[9]

Early political career[edit]

1998 congressional election[edit]

U.S. Congressman Bill Paxon (R-NY) convinced Collins to get into politics and challenge 24-year incumbent Democrat U.S. Congressman John J. LaFalce in New York's 29th congressional district.[citation needed] During the campaign, Collins was one of the first congressional candidates to call for President Bill Clinton's resignation in the wake of the Monica Lewinsky scandal.[10] LaFalce touted his own record of bringing home the bacon[11] and he was re-elected by 58% to 41%.

Erie County Executive[edit]


Collins ran for Erie County Executive in 2007 on the platform of smaller county government, lower taxes and Six Sigma.[12] His campaign slogan was "Elect a Chief Executive, not a Chief Politician." Collins defeated Democrat James P. Keane, the Deputy County Executive of the Dennis Gorski administration, with 63% in what was considered an "upset" win.[13]

On November 8, 2011, Collins lost his bid for re-election, a race he was predicted to win.[14] He was defeated by Democratic candidate Mark Poloncarz, the Erie County Comptroller.[15] In a county with 140,000 more Democrats than Republicans, Collins won 39 of the 44 municipalities. Poloncarz won the 5 remaining municipalities, most importantly the City of Buffalo, by a margin of 81% to 19%.[14]


Collins speaking at the 2008 Republican National Convention

When Collins became the County Executive, he inherited from his Republican predecessor, Joel Giambra, a nearly bankrupt county that had state-imposed fiscal control with a budget of $1.2 billion.[12][13]

Collins spoke for 3 minutes at the 2008 Republican National Convention on September 3, 2008.[16] He was the only County Executive in the country given the opportunity to speak at the RNC.[citation needed]

Collins reduced overall county debt by over $120 million and created a cash surplus in excess of $100 million.[17] He reduced county employment by over 1,200 employees (22%)[17] and fully paid Erie County’s state imposed pension costs without borrowing.[17] Collins reverted the state imposed Fiscal Control Authority to advisory status in 18 months [18] and received approval of a Four Year Financial Plan (2012–2015) that further reduced county debt by another $100 million.[17]

Collins reopened every bridge, road, park and beach that had been closed under previous administration, including rebuilding the historic toboggan runs in Chestnut Ridge Park in Orchard Park.[17][19]

As Erie County Executive, Collins recruited a Six Sigma Master Black Belt from the University at Buffalo who had previously worked as an executive at a Delphi to implement Lean Six Sigma across all county departments under the direction of the County Executive to improve efficiency and reduce costs. The position’s $115,000 salary plus associated costs was funded by a grant of tax-payer money from the Erie County Control Board.[20]

He laid off almost 1,000 workers[12] and effectively repealed the county’s Apprenticeship Law.[21]

Collins sued the county so that he could unilaterally increase the county attorney's salary by more that $50,000 than the amount authorized by the County Legislature.[22] The State Supreme Court Judge presiding over the case ruled in favor of Collins and awarded the higher salary to the incoming County Attorney.[23]

Collins was sued by the United States Department of Justice for repeated civil rights violations of prisoners held in county facilities, including juveniles and prisoners with developmental disabilities.[24] The Department of Justice and Erie County co-signed a stipulated settlement of dismissal in August 2011.[25]

He was also sued by the County Legislature for refusing to issue payments to Erie Community College which had been included in the County's budget.[26]

As County Executive, Collins created the Brighter Future Fund, donating his county salary to local non-profit organizations for the first 18 months of his tenure.[27]

In February 2008, Erie County experienced a potential Hepatitis A emergency when an infected employee handled produce at a popular supermarket.[28] Over the course of several days, the County vaccinated and inoculated 10,000 people to protect the public. The event was one of the largest vaccination events in the history of the United States.[28]

One year later, tragedy struck Erie County when Continental Flight 3407 crashed in a residential neighborhood, killing all 49 passengers on board, one person on the ground in Clarence Center. Collins declared a State of Emergency. Throughout the night and over the next several days, Collins worked to ensure the cooperation of Erie County departments and other government agencies in the recovery, investigation and family support efforts.[29]

In the summer of 2009, southern Erie County – especially the Village of Gowanda – was devastated by flooding. Dozens of homeowners lost the contents of their basements and first floors. Collins mobilized the County’s Emergency Services and Public Works departments to assist local governments in their recovery efforts.[30] Erie County also successfully lobbied the Federal government to provide FEMA aid dollars to both local governments and individual homeowners.[citation needed]

During his lame duck period as Chief Executive, Collins proposed spending $6m to upgrade housing for polar bears at Buffalo Zoo at the same time as laying off 155 workers.[12]

Political future[edit]

Beginning in 2009, Collins was mentioned as a potential candidate for Governor of New York in the 2010 election, particularly if Rudy Giuliani decided not to run.[31][32][33] Collins had indicated he would make his decision in January 2010, but observers believed he was strongly leaning toward running.[34] After further pondering, Collins decided not to run on January 26, 2010. He cited a desire to focus on his current job and a lack of fundraising support from downstate donors, which he dubbed the "status quo." He did not endorse Rick Lazio and encouraged the state party to find someone else, either from the business field or possibly cross-endorsing Democrat Steve Levy.[35]

Before his re-election defeat, Collins was mentioned as a potential candidate in the 2014 gubernatorial election.[13] After his election to Congress, Collins was again mentioned as a possible gubernatorial candidate. In January 2013, he said that he had "no intention or interest in running for governor in 2014".[36]

Collins, after initially endorsing Jeb Bush in the 2016 presidential election and donating money to a Bush-aligned SuperPAC, endorsed Donald Trump when Bush dropped out of the race.[37]

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]

2012 Election[edit]

After losing his County Executive re-election campaign, Collins ruled out a future bid for office. In January 2012, he was reported to be considering running for Congress[14] and on March 25, 2012, Collins announced he was running in New York's newly-drawn 27th Congressional District. The district had previously been the 26th District, and had long been a Republican bastion. However, in a 2011 special election, Democratic Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul became the first Democrat to represent the district in over 40 years.

On June 26, 2012 Collins won the Republican primary, defeating Iraq War veteran David Bellavia 60%–40%. Collins had the Republican and Conservative party lines for the November general election and defeated Hochul 51%–49%,[38] a difference of 4,312 votes.

113th Congress[edit]

Collins was sworn-in on January 3, 2013. Prior to taking the oath of office, House Republican leadership appointed him to serve on both the Agriculture and Small Business committees in the 113th Congress.[39] Soon after taking office, House Small Business Committee Chairman Sam Graves tapped Collins to chair the subcommittee on Healthcare and Technology.[40]

On March 20, 2014 Collins chaired a field hearing, titled Expanding Broadband Access and Capabilities to Small Businesses in Rural New York.[41][42] This field hearing was held at the Orleans County Legislature in Albion, NY, examining access to broadband in rural communities, and the role of the federal government in expanding these capabilities to small businesses.[43] Following the field hearing, Collins hosted a roundtable discussion with local community leaders to continue the discussion on the importance of access to broadband in rural communities.[44]

In announcing his committee assignments, Collins said one of his top goals as a member of Congress would be to work with his colleagues to pass a new Farm Bill.[45] On May 15, 2013 Collins voted to approve the 2013 Farm Bill.[46][47] Subsequently, on January 29, 2014 Collins voted to approve the Conferenced Farm Bill, known as the Agricultural Act of 2014.[48] President Obama signed the 5 year Agricultural Act of 2014 into law on February 7, 2014.[49]

On June 5, 2013 Collins was asked to join the Committee on Science, Space and Technology. This assignment made Collins the member of three congressional committees, a rarity among members of Congress.[50]

Collins has been critical of the federal Veterans' Administration since taking office. Collins has said the VA has been unresponsive to several of his concerns and that the agency’s track record is unimpressive. He has called for a top-to-bottom review to address such matters as the massive disability claims backlog and the misuse use of insulin injection pens.[51] Due to the inappropriate use of single use insulin injection pens at the VA hospital in Buffalo, it was reported that 20 veterans tested positive for hepatitis.[52] Following this news, Collins called for the resignation of Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki.[53][54]

In response to a proposal by New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo to provide state prison inmates with a publicly financed college education, Collins introduced the Kids Before Cons Act in February 2014.[55] The bill would prohibit states from using federal funding for the purpose of providing a college degree to convicted criminals. Collins called the Governor's proposal an insult to law-abiding taxpayers who are struggling to put themselves or their children through college.[56] Collins' bill does allow federal dollars to be used for GED and working training programs in prisons and correctional facilities. Cuomo later abandoned his proposal to use public money to fund his initiative.[57]

Collins during a visit to a Yahoo facility in Lockport, New York in 2015

On May 1, 2014, Collins and Congressman Kurt Schrader (D-OR) sent a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Department of the Army Secretary John M. McHugh voicing concerns with a proposed rule to expand the definition of ‘navigable waters’ under the Clean Water Act. Two hundred and thirty-one (231) House Members co-signed the letter (212 Republican and 19 Democrats) demanding the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers abandon the proposal because of the negative impact it would have on American farms.[58][59] Collins and Schrader's effort was supported by the American Farm Bureau.

Committee assignments

2014 Election[edit]

Collins won re-election to a second term by defeating Democratic opponent Jim O'Donnell 72%–28%.[60]

114th Congress[edit]

In the 114th Congress, Congressman Collins served on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He stated his priorities on the Energy and Commerce Committee would be securing American energy independence, ensuring companies at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus receive a fair amount of funding in the competitive grants offered by the National Institutes of Health, continuing oversight of the government’s approval for new drugs and medical treatments, and increasing access to broadband Internet service in rural areas.[61]

Committee Assignments
Caucus Memberships
  • Auto Industry Pension Task Force
  • Automotive Performance and Motorsports Caucus
  • Battery Storage Caucus (Co-Chairman)
  • Canada-U.S. Caucus
  • Dairy Farmer Caucus
  • Diabetes Caucus
  • Fire Services Caucus
  • Friends of the Job Corps Caucus
  • General Aviation Caucus
  • International Conservation Caucus
  • Job Creators Caucus
  • Law Enforcement Caucus
  • Manufacturing Caucus
  • Medicaid Task Force
  • Mitochondrial Disease Caucus
  • Morocco Caucus
  • National Guard and Reserve Components Caucus
  • Natural Gas Caucus
  • New York Defense Working Group
  • Northern Border Caucus
  • Pilot Caucus
  • Propane Caucus
  • Republican Israel Caucus
  • Republican Study Committee
  • Rural Telecommunications Working Group
  • Scouting Caucus (Co-Chairman)[62]
  • Small Business Caucus
  • Small Business Information Technology Caucus
  • Specialty Crop Caucus (Co-Chairman)
  • Sportsmen’s Caucus
  • STEM Education Caucus
  • Taiwan Caucus
  • Technology Transfer Caucus
  • The Internet of Things Caucus
  • Toy Caucus
  • Upstate New York Caucus

2016 Election[edit]


Collins officially endorsed Donald Trump for president on February 24, 2016, becoming the first sitting member of Congress to do so. He cited shared pasts in business and a need for businessmen in the White House as having influenced his decision.[63] On July 18, Collins seconded Trump's nomination at the 2016 Republican National Convention.


Collins won re-election to a third term by defeating Democratic opponent Diana K. Kastenbaum 220,885 (62.32%) to 107,832 (30.42%) with "blank/void/scattering" totaling 25,709 (7.25%) of the district vote.[64]

115th Congress[edit]

Committee Assignments
Caucus Memberships
  • Auto Industry Pension Task Force
  • Automotive Performance and Motorsports Caucus
  • Battery Storage Caucus (Co-Chairman)
  • Canada-U.S. Caucus
  • Dairy Farmer Caucus
  • Diabetes Caucus
  • Fire Services Caucus
  • Friends of the Job Corps Caucus
  • General Aviation Caucus
  • International Conservation Caucus
  • Job Creators Caucus
  • Law Enforcement Caucus
  • Manufacturing Caucus
  • Medicaid Task Force
  • Mitochondrial Disease Caucus
  • Morocco Caucus
  • National Guard and Reserve Components Caucus
  • Natural Gas Caucus
  • New York Defense Working Group
  • Northern Border Caucus
  • Pilot Caucus
  • Propane Caucus
  • Republican Israel Caucus
  • Republican Study Committee
  • Rural Telecommunications Working Group
  • Scouting Caucus (Co-Chairman)
  • Small Brewers Caucus
  • Small Business Caucus
  • Small Business Information Technology Caucus
  • Specialty Crop Caucus (Co-Chairman)
  • Sportsmen’s Caucus
  • STEM Education Caucus
  • Taiwan Caucus
  • Technology Transfer Caucus
  • The Internet of Things Caucus
  • Toy Caucus
  • Upstate New York Caucus

Political stances[edit]

National security[edit]

Collins supported President Donald Trump's 2017 executive order to temporarily curtail Muslim immigration until better screening methods are devised. He stated that “I get a little frustrated with the folks who don’t like Trump trying to make something into something it’s not. So I’m just disappointed that we can’t have a true and honest debate without someone inflaming the situation and claiming there’s religious overtones.”[65]


In October 2009, Collins compared Sheldon Silver, the Jewish speaker of the New York State Assembly, with Adolf Hitler, Napoleon and the Antichrist. Collins apologized for his comments.[66]

In January 2010, a Republican Assemblyman claimed that at Gov. David Paterson’s crowded State-of-the State address, Collins told a woman that "I'm sure if you offer someone a lap dance you can find a place to sit."[67] Collins denied making the statement attributed to him.[68] These two controversies were widely seen as the reason he did not run for Governor of New York in 2010.[13][35]

Collins made national news due to an interview published in The Batavian on June 24, 2012, in which he said: "People now don’t die from prostate cancer, breast cancer and some of the other things. The fact of the matter is, our healthcare today is so much better, we’re living so much longer, because of innovations in drug development, surgical procedures, stents, implantable cardiac defibrillators, neural stimulators – they didn’t exist 10 years ago." [69] In response, The Huffington Post wrote, "An estimated 577,190 people in the United States will die from cancer this year, including about 39,920 deaths from breast cancer and 28,170 from prostate cancer," citing data from the American Cancer Society.[70] Artvoice wrote, "The implantable cardiac defibrillator and neural stimulators, or TENS devices, were both invented and patented in the late 60s or early 70s; therefore, they existed '10 years ago'." [71]

After the national media picked up the story, Batavian publisher Howard Owens defended Collins: "On its face, the opening part of the quote from Collins sounds outrageous, but in context, clearly Collins misspoke. More likely, he meant to say: ‘Fewer people die from prostate cancer, breast cancer and some of the other things.’" [72]

In February 2014, Collins introduced the Kids before Cons Act, which would prohibit the use of federal money to provide college education to convicted criminals in prison. An editorial in the New York Times said, "These ridiculous arguments are unmoored from both reason and reality." A 2013 RAND study of 30 years of research found that every dollar spent on inmate education saves $4 to $5 on re-incarceration.[73]

On November 28, 2016, Collins described Mitt Romney, who was being considered by President-elect Donald Trump for his Secretary of State, as a "self-serving egomaniac." On the TV show "New Day," Collins told host Chris Cuomo, "What do I know about Mitt Romney? I know that he's a self-serving egomaniac who puts himself first, who has a chip on his shoulder, and thinks that he should be president of the United States." [74]

On February 10, 2017, Collins told Chris Cuomo on "New Day" that elected officials should not have to release their tax history. This comment came in response to the ongoing controversy surrounding President Donald Trump's refusal to release his tax forms. Collins told Cuomo "I've always said he shouldn't report his taxes. I don't think any elected official should" [75]


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  18. ^ "Control board shifts to advisory status while warning that it 'will not go away' – City & Region". The Buffalo News. 2009-06-03. Retrieved 2013-09-05. 
  19. ^ "Tallyho as tobogganers chase thrill Fun seekers pack Chestnut Ridge Park on Saturday as toboggan chutes open – City & Region". The Buffalo News. 2010-01-10. Retrieved 2013-09-05. 
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  25. ^ "U.S. suit on county jail, prison to be dismissed; Justice Department, county attorney sign agreement to end legal action, Collins says – City & Region". The Buffalo News. 2011-08-18. Retrieved 2013-09-05. 
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  28. ^ a b "Hepatitis scare raises concerns Offers glimpse into nightmare of a flu pandemic – City & Region". The Buffalo News. 2008-02-15. Retrieved 2013-09-05. 
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  30. ^ "Creek Goes on Rampage: Torrential rains cause Cattaraugus Creek to flood, leaving 2 dead, roads awash, Gowanda inundated". The Buffalo News. 2009-08-11. Retrieved 2013-09-05. 
  31. ^ Dicker, Fred (2009-05-18). BIZMAN POL IS GOPERS' PLAN B. New York Post. Retrieved 2009-05-19.
  32. ^ Vielkind, Jimmy (2009-05-29). Collins, Lazio Get to Sit Up Front at Conservative Party Dinner.
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  36. ^ Reisman, Nick (27 January 2013). "'Collins: Run For Governor Is 'Off The Table'". Capital Tonight. 
  37. ^ Zremski, Jerry, "Clinton outraises Trump eightfold in Western New York", The Buffalo News, August 24, 2016.
  38. ^ "Election 2012 – New York 27th District – Collins vs. Hochul". RealClearPolitics. Retrieved 2013-09-05. 
  39. ^ "Congressman-elect Chris Collins Receives Committee Assignments > WBTA AM 1490 Batavia, New York". 2012-12-14. Retrieved 2013-09-05. 
  40. ^ "Collins gains rare rookie honor as subcommittee chief – City & Region". The Buffalo News. Retrieved 2013-09-05. 
  41. ^ Krencik, Jim (21 March 2014). "Telecom reps offer testimony at rural broadband hearing". The Daily News. Retrieved 31 March 2014. 
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  53. ^ "18 Patients at Buffalo VA Test Positive for Hepatitis". Retrieved 2013-09-05. 
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  56. ^ The Livingston County News (21, February 2014) "Collins joins state legislators in opposition to Cuomo's 'College for Convicts' Plan"
  57. ^ Kaplan, Thomas (2, April 2014). "Cuomo Drops Plan to Use State Money to Pay for College Classes for Inmates" The New York Times
  58. ^ Turner, Douglas (12 May 2014). "EPA's power-grab is cause for alarm". The Buffalo News. Retrieved 12 May 2014. 
  59. ^ Goad, Benjamin (1 May 2014). "200 lawmakers push EPA to rescind water regulation". The Hill. Retrieved 2 May 2014. 
  60. ^ "New York House results – 2014 Election Center – Elections and Politics from". Retrieved 2015-02-25. 
  61. ^ "Collins to join influential House Energy and Commerce Committee – City & Region". The Buffalo News. 2014-12-04. Retrieved 2015-01-03. 
  62. ^ "Committees and Caucuses | Congressman Chris Collins". Retrieved 2016-01-11. 
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  65. ^ Blake, Aaron. "Coffman, Gardner join Republicans against President Trump's travel ban; here's where the rest stand". Denver Post. Retrieved 30 January 2017. 
  66. ^ Benjamin, Elizabeth (October 26, 2009). "Erie County Executive Collins regrets comparing Sheldon Silver to Hitler, anti-Christ". Daily News. 
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  72. ^ "Media seize on comment by Collins". Retrieved 5 July 2012. 
  73. ^ Gov. Cuomo Drops the Ball, Editorial, New York Times, April 8, 2014.
  74. ^ Wright, David, "Trump ally: Romney a 'self-serving egomaniac'", CNN, November 28, 2016.
  75. ^ Scott, Eugene, "Congressman: Elected officials shouldn't release taxes", CNN, February 10, 2017.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Joel Giambra
Erie County, New York County Executive
Succeeded by
Mark Poloncarz
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Kathy Hochul
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 27th congressional district

United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Joaquín Castro
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Doug Collins