Nate McMurray, the congressman we deserve

If there was ever a community that deserved a solid member of Congress to represent them in Washington, it is us, the people of New York’s 27th district. Our most recent former representative, Republican Chris Collins, was the “abusive husband” version of a congressman. He never cared about us. He was a very wealthy man who went to Washington to help make his family and his big donors more wealthy still. He so openly served his rich contributors that during the 2018 tax giveaway to corporations he confessed to a reporter, “My donors are basically saying: ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again.’”

Collins also illegally passed along insider stock information, leading to his conviction for securities fraud, his forced resignation from the House and his upcoming two-year term in federal prison.

This is the kind of representation that local Republican party leaders think we need in Washington, wealthy men who pretend to be for working people, then head to Congress to do favors for the powerful. Nate McMurray, the Democrat on the ballot this November, is another kind of person entirely.

McMurray is a native of North Tonawanda, one of seven children raised by a single mother when his father died of cancer at the age of 39. He worked his way through community college then earned a bachelor’s degree at SUNY Buffalo. After that he earned a law degree from Hastings College in California, one of the finest law schools in the country. From there he began a career in business that included some time living in South Korea. But he returned home to western New York and turned his attention to serving the people he came from, most recently as a well-regarded town supervisor in Grand Island.

McMurray, an Eagle Scout, is the father of two young boys. He is also no political phony who pretends to be one thing and turns into another once the votes are counted. Before the pandemic hit we sat together for coffee here in Lockport one long afternoon. He is the real deal and the real deal is what we deserve after being represented in Washington by a con man.

McMurray’s commitment to fight for the interests of working people comes from the place that matters most, from the heart and from his experience growing up in hard circumstances. If he is elected, he will work to make health care more affordable, not to make health insurance companies more wealthy. On the pandemic, we can count on him to act based on science, not magic fantasies. On jobs, we can count on him to work for better wages, not to keep pushing the nation’s wealth into the hands of the very few at the top.

Which brings me to McMurray’s political opponent in November, a longtime Buffalo politician named Chris Jacobs. Like the other Chris before him, Jacobs is a wealthy man, in his case thanks to his parents, the owners of the conglomerate Delaware North. One upon a time Jacobs cast himself as a political moderate, but that’s all in the past now. What Jacobs is today is an obedient cheerleader for Donald Trump. In preparing to run for Congress, Jacobs made a political calculation that blind loyalty to the president — and whatever dangerous thing Trump says or does — was the price of going to Washington. That may work for him, but it is dreadfully bad news for the country, and for us.

On Trump’s fantasy-driven response to a pandemic (with a death toll now 60 times as high as the attacks on 9/11), Jacobs cheers out, “He’s done a great job!” On Trump’s attempts to torpedo the U.S. Postal Service as a way to sabotage the November vote, Jacob offers silence. On Trump’s suggestion that we ignore the U.S. Constitution and delay the election altogether, more silence.

Who knows what Jacobs actually thinks about anything anymore? He thinks whatever Trump tells him to think because he’s afraid not to. While other Republicans around the country have stepped forward to bravely stand up to Trump’s worst, Jacobs has joined the ranks of those too scared to say a thing — and the last thing the nation needs right now is one more politician in Washington dancing like a puppet for the President. The last thing our community needs is another congressman whose political mission is to help the powerful become even more powerful, at our expense.

Two years ago, running in the most Republican House district in New York, McMurray finished just 1% short of beating Collins. In June’s tiny-turnout special election to fill Collins’s empty seat — an election Jacobs was supposed to win in a landslide — McMurray finished just 5% shy of beating him too. This November, with a voter turnout that is expected to be twice as large, McMurray is poised to pull off one of the great political upsets in the country.

There is a reason for that. McMurray doesn’t have Jacobs’ wealth and connections, or a president Tweeting out his love from Air Force One. What he has instead is a grassroots campaign and a genuine commitment to help lift up the lives of working people, at a time when life for many has never been harder. If we are smart we will help push McMurray over the finish line in November, and elect the kind of congressman our community deserves.

Jim Shultz is a father and grandfather in Lockport. His most recent book is “My Other Country, Nineteen Years in Bolivia”. His writings can be found at jimshultzthewriter.com.