Nate McMurray has picked up endorsements from seven of the eight county Democratic chairs in his bid for the 27th Congressional District.

Meanwhile, this week a newcomer entered the race. Democrat Melodie Baker, also of Erie County, is an education and health care policy expert seeking her party’s nomination.

The 27th District seat is vacant following the resignation of former Rep. Chris Collins. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to call for a special election in April.

In announcing her candidacy, Baker said she is running for Congress to create economic opportunity for the region through investments in education that include skilled-trade training as well as reducing medical debt. She is committed to making Medicare available to everyone and helping the middle class get ahead by reducing the wealth gap, she said.

McMurray lost to Collins — who had securities fraud charges looming over him — by less than 1 percent of the vote in 2018. After formally announcing his candidacy a few months ago, he recently received backing from the majority of the district’s Democratic chairs, in the counties of Orleans, Genesee, Wyoming, Livingston, Monroe, Niagara and Ontario.

“We need a fighter like Nate McMurray in Congress,” said John Hurley, chair of the Ontario County Democratic Committee. “He had record turnout here in 2018, and we are ready to build on it in 2020.”

McMurray said he is talking with voters across Ontario County and the rest of the district “about the issues that are impacting them — they know we need real representation in Washington and I am ready to make a difference in Congress.”

Baker is director of education for the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County and an advocate for children and families as chair of the Erie-Niagara Birth to 8 Coalition and the co-chair of RaisingNY. Baker also runs her own small policy firm where she conducts research and evaluation for governments and nonprofit organizations, including the New York State Department of Health.

McMurray is Grand Island town supervisor. He cites accomplishments that include leading efforts to bring millions of dollars in business development to Grand Island; championing the state’s plan for a major hike and bike trail along the waterfront; securing Grand Island as the site for the state’s Western New York Visitors’ Center; and spearheading removal of the much-despised toll barriers at the North and South Grand Island Bridges.

Jim Eckstrom is executive editor of the Olean Times Herald and Bradford Publishing Co. His email is