McMurray appears to wrap up Democratic nomination for NY-27

Nathan McMurray appears to have wrapped up the Democratic nomination for an anticipated special election to fill the vacant congressional seat in the 27th District. Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy J. Zellner on Wednesday ended any effort to consider an alternate candidate by indicating his committee will support McMurray, the outgoing Grand Island supervisor who barely lost his 2018 bid for the same seat.

“We’ll be with Nate,” Zellner said. “All the chairs have said Nate is the guy.”

Some doubt clouded McMurray’s bid for an encore candidacy last month when Melodie Baker, education director for the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County, launched a surprise candidacy and began soliciting support. The Buffalo News reported in November that some Erie County Democrats were hesitant about another McMurray candidacy following controversy involving his 2018 effort. But Zellner’s assurance of Erie County support provides McMurray with another 49% of the weighted vote needed for the special election nomination to be determined by the eight Democratic leaders of the 27th District. Combined with the 51% he already wrapped up from the district’s seven other party leaders, Baker’s effort appears to have failed.

Baker said late Wednesday she is not giving up on her efforts because of new indications of union support, and continues trying to persuade party leaders throughout the district to change their minds. “Developing these relationships take a little while, and the unions are huge,” she said. “They are a big piece in the puzzle.” Zellner reiterated, however, that McMurray has secured the nomination even without Erie County’s support. “She doesn’t seem to understand that,” he said. “I am hearing from the town leaders they want McMurray.”

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is expected to call a special election on April 28 for the seat vacated by Republican Chris Collins following his Sept. 30 resignation and guilty plea to federal insider trading charges. Baker could still compete in a June 23 Democratic primary, but that looms as an expensive undertaking with many challenges. Still, should McMurray lose the April 28 contest, there is no guarantee Democratic leaders would back him again in the primary to determine a candidate for the November general election, though he would be free to compete.

McMurray said Wednesday he was never aware of significant opposition to his 2020 candidacy. “I never got that,” he said Wednesday. “I suspect Jeremy was showing respect to some people. But the local committees were always excited and still are.”

McMurray said he is ramping up his fundraising efforts and will begin active campaigning in early 2020. The district’s GOP leaders are also expected to settle on a candidate some time in January.