the following is a prepared statement but not a verbatim transcript:
Nearly all the votes have been counted and Chris Collins will be returning to Washington to represent the people of New York’s 27th Congressional District. After discussing the matter thoroughly with counsel and weighing our options, we believe it’s in the best interest of this community to end this chapter and move on to the next.
I offer Mr. Collins my concession.
It was a hard decision. Part of me wants to fight. I can’t just smile and pretend this was all fair. And so my concession comes with a warning. Mr. Collins, you won by the slimmest of margins (less than half a percent), in a district designed to ensure anyone with an “R” next to their name, even an indicted criminal, could win a decisive victory.
Still, you almost lost. To win you had to resort to extreme measures—lying about me and my family, hiding from the media and the people you represent, and refusing to face me in the time-honored tradition of a public debate. Your strategy was by your own admission cowardice and partisan politics.
So I will be watching. We will all be watching. We are not going anywhere.
Together, with countless supporters across this district and throughout the country, we built something special. We ignored the naysayers and fought like hell for what we believed in.
We learned that at the grassroots level, the people have the power to break the political machine when we work together. We had the largest partisan swing of any first-time state or federal candidate in the country and one of the largest swings period. Together we set the foundation for incredible things to come.
We built this movement from the ground up via potlucks and picnics. I’m proud that we did this with little to no outside support. We raised over $1.2M in primarily grassroots donations in just over 3 months. Our campaign funds came from mechanics and farmers, school teachers, office workers, students, and senior citizens. There are few feelings more humbling than to have someone squeeze your hand at a campaign appearance, and tell you, “I just donated five dollars to your election. It’s all I can afford.”
For the first time in a very long time, the people of the 27th District felt that their voice was heard and that their vote mattered. My heart will not permit me to abandon those wonderful people.
So today, I am proudly announcing that I am forming an organization called Fight Like Hell. Fight Like Hell will be a voice for those thousands of Western New Yorkers who feel excluded, disenfranchised, and apathetic–those who continue to reach out and ask what they can do, what’s next.
We want to take what we’ve learned and the tools and resources we’ve gathered and pay them forward by empowering more good people to run for office. I want more people to understand who their local leaders are (and how they can hold them accountable). Among other things, we will host Town Halls where residents will have a chance to share their voice, whether or not your Congressman thinks it’s important for you to do so or continues to hide
Beyond that. Mr. Collins’ future in Washington remains murky. He says that he will finish his term, but as we know, Mr. Collins is not the best at keeping promises. Let me say it here first: when the time is right, I will run for office again.
I have met a lot of disappointed people since the election. I have felt a great deal of sadness. But be of good cheer. We are not what Mr. Collins represents. And we are not what the opportunistic politicians and pundits who supported him represent.
We ARE what those thousands of folks who stood up to him by standing on corners, writing postcards, and knocking doors in the cold represent. We ARE are what those Republicans who took a chance on a lanky Democrat represent. We ARE what the folks who are already gearing up for the next fight represent. Indeed, we ARE what America represents. We are hope, we are kindness, we are decency, and integrity.
Sure, we lost. But if we lost with integrity and fighting for Unions, the middle class, and healthcare for every American, so be it.
Stay strong. Protect it from the wind. But let that light glow.
With love, gratitude, and joy,