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Rep. Chris Collins emerges as a key Donald Trump supporter

Rep. Chris Collins, representing New York's 27th congressional

Rep. Chris Collins, representing New York's 27th congressional district, speaks at the New York delegation breakfast at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, on Tuesday, July 19, 2016. Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

CLEVELAND — Rep. Chris Collins of Buffalo, who drew fire as the first sitting member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump, on Tuesday explained his choice with just a bit of I-told-you-so jabs at the Republican Party.

Collins has since become a key figure for candidate Trump and perhaps in a Trump administration. Collins is expected to have a key speaking slot in prime time Tuesday night at the convention’s main stage.

Collins said Tuesday morning that he chose Trump because he is an executive, not a legislator who debates issues to death before acting, and that’s what America needs.

“I said we cannot afford to have another legislator leading the country,” Collins told the New York delegation at the Republican National Convention.

“A chief executive has, every hour, eight or 10 people walking into their office and they are not delivering good news,” said Collins, the former Erie County executive. “It’s one disaster after another . . . and they need answers right away. Legislators take weeks, months, however long it takes to make a decision.

“We have to have a chief executive sitting in that office . . . it’s like drinking water out of a fire hydrant,” Collins told the delegation in Cleveland.

Collins clearly relished being — if not the smartest guy in the room — the quickest.

In February he shocked Washington by endorsing Trump in a field of 17 when pundits and most GOP leaders felt the reality TV star and Manhattan developer had no serious chance at the nomination and was a danger to the country and the party.

But Collins not only endorsed Trump, he brought Trump around Washington to meet with top Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan. That began to give Trump some contacts in the party organization and earned Collins the title of Trump’s man in Washington.

Erie County Republican Chairman Nicholas Langworthy praised Collins for his foresight in endorsing Trump when other GOP leaders felt the developer was “a little rough around the edges.”

“I’m pretty sure he didn’t have a lot of friends in the conference that week,” Langworthy said.

Collins also tried to dispel the concern of Republicans about Trump — that the bombastic candidate could hurt State Senate and other down-ballot Republicans.

“Donald Trump is going to help down-ballot Republicans,” Collins said. “The consensus was, ‘Oh God, it’s going to be a terrible time for down-ballot candidates. It’s just the opposite. Donald Trump is a movement . . . Republicans are going to turn out in unprecedented numbers.”

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) said much the same in a recent interview. He is seeking to maintain the Republicans’ slim majority control when Democratic turnout is expected to be huge for presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, the former junior U.S. senator for New York.

“He has tapped a nerve and listened to people,” Flanagan told Newsday.

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