UB law school alum takes a shot at unseating WNY congressman Chris Collins

Sean Bunny wants college students to get involved with public service


It was 2 a.m. on Nov. 9 and East Amherst native Sean Bunny was sitting up with his wife, who was crying.

Donald Trump had just been elected president in one of modern history’s most shocking elections. Bunny did the one thing he could think of to stop his wife’s tears––he promised to run against Republican Representative Chris Collins in the next Congressional election.

Bunny left his job as a prosecutor at the District Attorney’s office on Oct. 18 to formally begin his campaign against the 27th district’s incumbent, joining two other Democrats hoping to unseat Collins.

What Bunny lacks in a political war chest; he makes up for in years of public service in the military and in law.

After graduating from Syracuse University, Bunny was accepted to Army Officer Candidate School and was deployed to Iraq in 2009. Bunny returned from Iraq as a Battalion Chief of Operations after being promoted to Captain.

His last day in the Army was Christmas Day 2010 and he started at UB School of Law on Jan. 2, 2011. Bunny began working as a prosecutor in city courts before working in the District Attorney’s office, after graduating from UB.

“I was a very happy prosecutor doing my job and I would still be a very happy one right now had the results of last year’s elections went differently,” Bunny said.

Bunny said he’s tired of the political circus Washington has become and wants to bring the focus back to Western New York’s constituents if elected next November.

He feels Democrats have neglected the working class and need to look at some of the negative impacts globalization has had on their own party. He said he hopes to bring jobs to Western New York with an infrastructure bill.

“There is a moral side to all of this—allowing someone who doesn’t necessarily want to go to a four year college a chance to have a life with dignified work,” Bunny said. “It’s something that I don’t think we’ve done a good enough job talking about in the Democratic party. I don’t think this current administration is going to fulfill those promises, but I’m glad that Trump put the issue out there and it’s something we’re talking about.”

Bunny has also come out against the tax plan recently proposed by House Republicans, which Collins has publicly supported. Bunny supports the plan’s increase of the standard deduction to help middle class families, but he feels the plan is mostly “slashing taxes for the wealthy and corporations.”

“I don’t agree with Chris Collins on his health care approach; I don’t agree with his tax care approach and as much as he likes to talk a big game about jobs and manufacturing. We

haven’t seen an infrastructure bill and we certainly haven’t seen anything to help western New York,” Bunny said.

Policy isn’t the only area Bunny wants to distance himself from Collins on.

Bunny feels Collins has spent too much time defending the Trump administration on national television and not enough to represent Western New Yorkers.

“Every time you see Collins on TV, he’s not talking about improving Route 5 or getting more federal money for the thruway,” Bunny said. “It’s always trying to defend something ridiculous that the White House said. My priorities wouldn’t be to defend this White House or any other White House, it would be to the 27th district of Western New York.”

Bunny said he has always regretted not being more involved with politics. He encourages college students to join political groups on-campus or get involved with other forms of public service.

“It’s always important to get involved, but especially for college students. There’s a ‘West Wing’ line from years ago; ‘decisions are made by people who show up,’” Bunny said. “We’re the ones the country is going to get turned over to when Donald Trump and Chris Collins are all off the planet. It’s important to get involved and to understand what problems we need to solve and how we need to do things differently.”

Some political observers say Collins could be more vulnerable this election than in past cycles. The House Ethics Committee has been investigating Collins for potentially unethical dealings related to his involvement with an Australian biotech company.

But there is still the matter of Collins’ extensive network and fundraising abilities. Last month, Vice President Mike Pence visited Buffalo and raised $400,000 for Collins and other local Republicans.

Bunny says he’s not intimidated.

“I think the reason you saw the vice president in town to raise half a million dollars, the reason they’re already kind of putting up press releases about me, the reason Chris Collins was here in East Aurora a few days ago handing out something to a Vietnam veteran, I think he’s scared or at least knows he’s vulnerable,” Bunny said.

He knows Collins is always going to have more money, so he is going to focus on doing the “best job he can” to get his message out.

“I’m not really all that intimidated by Chris Collins. You couldn’t have a bigger contrast between the two of us. It feels like I’m taking on Mr. Burns from ‘The Simpsons,’” Bunny said. “It’s somebody who really doesn’t seem to have too much respect for the average Western New Yorker. I’m actually enjoying the challenge a lot.”

Sarah Crowley is the senior news editor and can be reached at sarah.crowley@ubspectrum.com.