Chris Collins admits that for 24 hours after voters rejected his re-election as county executive last November, he wallowed in an official "funk."
Those around him say Election Night proved an emotional affair. He simply could not accept the defeat.
He had done everything he said he would do. His administration was scandal-free. And he lost.
He went away on vacation and cleaned out his office long before his official departure date on Dec. 31. He didn't want to look at all his artifacts and beloved Lean Six Sigma posters, he said. Too depressing.
He also said he was not interested in running again for public office.
But the former county executive's mood brightened considerably when reapportioned congressional lines were approved in the spring. He took one look and realized the map makers might as well have submitted the redistricting plan to him instead of a federal judge in Manhattan.
The new 27th District included his hometown of Clarence, and a whole swath of GOP turf extending all the way to Canandaigua. Gone was the City of Buffalo – that place he pointed to all those times he explained his defeat.
"There were just too many Democrats there," he said time and again.
Even big Amherst – which usually votes Democratic in congressional elections – disappeared from the new 27th. He began planning a congressional run in the district with the strongest Republican presidential vote in all of New York.
The funk was gone. Collins was back.
So far, Collins' return to the political arena he says he disdains – but actually relishes – has proven a worthy gamble. He easily dispatched Iraq War veteran David Bellavia last Tuesday by much more than even his inner circle had predicted.
And it was a gamble. With a meager 12 percent turnout in the Erie County portion of the district, even the most experienced politico could never predict what would happen.
But Collins also knew he held some aces. He loaned his campaign $250,000 – because he could. No big deal for his bank account.
Then he encountered real opposition from GOP organizations in outlying counties, some still steaming over his role in running Assemblywoman Jane Corwin against eventual winner Kathy Hochul in the 2011 special election. That's a Republican seat, the outlying chairmen said, and it should not have been lost.
Some just didn't like his style.
"Collins is deemed to be of the country club set," Gordon Brown, Wyoming County GOP chairman, said of his Bellavia endorsement. "That appealed much less to my members."
Indeed, when the votes were tallied Tuesday evening, Collins lost six of the eight counties in the district. But the former county executive knew he was well known in Erie and Niagara counties, where he won overwhelmingly. And he also recognized early that total votes – not total counties – would determine the nomination.
So now Collins faces Hochul – a major obstacle.
Still, it all takes place in much friendlier territory. He can blast last week's health care decision by the Supreme Court at every stop along the way and on the airwaves, too, and he won't worry about all those Democrats in Buffalo.
In fact, the high court may have handed him major fodder last week. He unequivocally denounced the decision, while Hochul tiptoed through the tulips trying not to offend anyone.
Hochul didn't warm to the 27th District map and its numbers last spring the way Collins did. The arithmetic doesn't work for her. But she brings her own advantages as a natural pol whom voters like. And nobody should discount that factor.
Politics is a funny game. Stuff happens. People say things. Events get in the way.
And that's why this congressional contest – with all its numbers and all its personalities – will prove one of the most compelling of 2012.