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McMurray plans grassroots run for Congress

Sat, Jan 27th 2024 07:00 am

By Karen Carr Keefe

Senior Contributing Writer

Nate McMurray is hoping the third time is the charm after unsuccessful campaigns for Congress in the 27th District in 2018 and 2020. This time, he’s a candidate for the 26th District seat soon to be vacated by Brian Higgins.

McMurray, a Democrat and former Grand Island supervisor, announced his candidacy on Jan. 10. On Jan. 11, Erie County Democrats endorsed State Sen. Tim Kennedy for the 26th District.

There will be a special election to fill the seat, occurring between 70 and 80 days after Higgins leaves office. Then there will be a primary election on June 25 and the general election on Nov. 5.

Although he didn’t get the endorsement, McMurray says he’s in it for the long haul. He criticizes the county endorsement process as “undemocratic” and says he wants to give voters a choice.

McMurray said that, while Kennedy gets on the ballot automatically because of the party’s endorsement, “I have to go get 7,000 signatures in the middle of February.”

McMurray said that, because of his public service on Grand Island and his congressional races in the 27th Congressional District, “I think I’m the one person that might be able to challenge the system.”

He said the other candidate may garner the big-money donors, but he’ll go at it the way he has before, with grassroots politics: “I’m going to do it like I always did. I’m going to start small and build, and I’m going to go and meet people on-on-one.”

McMurray cites two major reasons for running: He wants to help revitalize Western New York by unifying the region around its strengths in tourism and its natural resources. And he wants to counteract the effect he says former President Donald Trump is having on politics and the nation as a whole.

“I think there’s things that are important that I want to see advocated for that I don’t see anybody else advocating for in the same way that I would,” McMurray said. “The reason why I’m running, first and foremost, is because I think there are things that need to change in Western New York, and I think there are real problems in the country. And I’ll start off just by saying that President Trump has caused a rift – a change in our country that I think is shocking, and I’ve been fighting against it for the better part of a decade.

“I think a lot of people thought it wasn’t as serious as it was. Because I ran for Congress before, I was able to see it first-hand and the rise of this conspiracy and intolerance. I can’t just sit by and watch people that just ignored these problems. I want to get out there and fight for what I believe in, which is a country that has a choice, freedom and common decency.”

Nate McMurray at the Western New York Welcome Center on Alvin Road. (Submitted photo)


Regarding what he sees as a rise in intolerance, McMurray said, “I think most Americans want there to be more harmony, but I think before we get to that point, we have to address, resist and stand up and call out the rise of hate.”

McMurray is an attorney and business executive who holds the title “of counsel” at Advocates for Justice in New York City, where he consults on and supports public interest and civil rights lawsuits in Rochester, Buffalo and Niagara Falls.

Before transitioning to public service, McMurray served as vice president of business development and assistant general counsel at Delaware North Companies. Before that, he worked in Asia advising multinational companies on outbound investment projects.

McMurray and his wife have two sons, Moses, 15, and Luke, 12.

“I’m not someone who grew up wanting to be in politics,” McMurray said. He explains that Grand Island Democratic Committee Chairman Jim Sharpe encouraged him to run for supervisor and he agreed. When he won, he said he told Sharpe, “Let’s use every ounce of political power we have to get as much done as possible. If people don’t like it, so be it.”

He said he and Sharpe, who served as deputy supervisor, were able to accomplish a lot in office.

“I realized the power of government,” McMurray said. “If you’re not worried about yourself or your career, and if you’re just worried about getting in and getting stuff done, you can really make a huge difference. And so I believe that, if I was in Congress, at that level, it would even be more so.”

The 26th District includes towns in Niagara and Erie counties – including Grand Island – as well as the cities of Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Tonawanda and North Tonawanda.

McMurray wants to see even more emphasis on tourism in Western New York.

“We think of tourism as an afterthought here, but tourism is the main thing about Western New York,” he said. “The reason why Buffalo even exists is because of geographic location, and we can use our geographic location and our proximity to Niagara Falls and all the tourism that comes here to revitalize the region. We should build off our natural strength.”

He continued, “The other thing we should is do build off our proximity to water and agriculture. Those are the strengths of the region.”

“And the third thing, I would say, is we should build off our proximity to Canada.”

McMurray said he would like advanced rail to connect the region, including dependable, convenient, high-speed rail to Toronto.

“Those are things I’ll advocate for: Investment in tourism dollars with Western New York to keep the millions and millions of people who come here, to stay here longer. And also investment in transportation options so we are better connected locally; and then investment in agriculture and preservation of our water and natural resources,” he said.

McMurray points to an accomplishment of his term as supervisor that is relevant to a regional emphasis on tourism: “I advocated for the Welcome Center to be built on Grand Island because I think Grand Island is a connecting point between Buffalo and Niagara Falls. And somehow, psychologically, the people of Western New York think of those as very different places; but it should be viewed as a community that cooperates, leverages resources and builds on its natural strengths together.

“In my vision for what Western New York would be, you could see cruise ships in Buffalo and people taking high-speed rail to Niagara Falls to visit, and people staying throughout this entire region.”

McMurray said he believes it’s very important to represent the 26th Congressional District as a unified region.

“Nothing in my life is a greater privilege than (having been) the supervisor of the Town of Grand Island,” he said. “I truly love it. It’s my children’s home. It’s the only place in the world where I really feel at home, myself. I want people to know that: I’m in Congress, I am definitely going to represent the entire district, but I’m going to proudly represent Grand Island.”

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