TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) - - Election day is a week away and the race for the New York 27th Congressional District is heating up.
Candidates had the opportunity to face off at a debate at St. Joe's High School in Tonawanda.
The race to represent New York's 27th congressional district is the closest-watched race in the region.
Republican congressman Chris Collins is trying to hang onto his seat after he was indicted on insider trading charges in August.
But when invited to a debate here at St. Joe's High School, Collins didn't show up.
Collins is being challenged by democrat Nate McMurray, the Town Supervisor of Grand Island and reform party candidate Larry Piegza.
They both call Collins' absence the elephant not in the room.
Piegza said, "I'd like to thank all of you for being here. I'd also like to thank one of my opponents for showing up."
McMurray said, "You need to understand why he is not here. He is not here because he's out on bail because hes indicted for 11 felony counts by Trumps justice administration."
Piegza and McMurray debate the trade war, denuclearizing Korea, and border security.
Piegza said, "I think the biggest thing we have to do is figure out what legal immigration is, and what illegal immigration is and then stick to whatever plan we come up to."
McMurray said, "There has to be strong borders that being said we do have a crisis among our farmers in our region they've been asking for a guest visa program for a generation, adn define ways to get workers to these farmers."
Each candidate had two minutes to answer questions carefully crafted by St. Joe's students.
Some tell us, they think both candidates had strengths they'd look for in a congressional leader.
Patrick Healy, a Senior at St. Joe's said, "The candidates, there were some back and forth between them, you could tell they were very passionate."
Leaders with St. Joe's tell us they attempted multiple times to invite Chris Collins to a debate but never heard back from anyone within his campaign.
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