Senator Roy McDonald, the New York lawmaker who said with exasperation that people could “take the job and shove it” when he announced his vote for marriage equality last year, appears to have lost his primary election to Republican challenger Kathy Marchione, who made the new law an issue in her campaign.
Ballot counting for the September 13 primary finished on Monday, and although McDonald has not yet conceded the primary to Marchione, the Saratoga County Clerk, it is now “mathematically impossible” for him to win, according to the Albany Times Union.
“While 50 ballots were set aside due to legal objections, Marchione leads McDonald, a two-term incumbent from Saratoga, by 113 votes, according to results provided by election officials in the four-county district,” reported the Times Union. “A judge could determine the fate of the remaining ballots, but no court appearance is scheduled and any proceeding would be obviated by a concession.”
McDonald could still run in November on the Independence Party line, but it is unclear how the Republican establishment would respond to the move. The senator is expected to announce his plans within the next week.
Four Republican senators broke ranks with their party and supported the marriage equality legislation in New York, and three ran for re-election. Senator Stephen Saland declared victory Monday in his primary, and Senator Mark Grisanti definitively won his contest earlier this month.
Securing reelection for the senators was widely viewed as important to the state-by-state push for marriage equality, with votes anticipated in the Delaware and Rhode Island legislatures in the coming year. Advocates have argued that no Republican who voted for marriage equality has ever lost his or her seat over the issue. The senators received significant financial support from marriage equality advocates, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and hedge fund manager Paul Singer, a major Mitt Romney donor, which allowed them to out raise and out spend their opponents.
Governor Andrew Cuomo, who lobbied the senators in one-on-one meetings to pass the legislation, told reporters on a conference call Tuesday morning that he was “elated” about Saland’s primary victory and “concerned” about the outcome for McDonald. The senators who supported marriage equality were threatened by “the extremists in their own party,” the governor said.
The National Organization for Marriage, which vowed to unseat the senators, released a statement immediately after the primary elections to “celebrate” the initial results. The Empire State Pride Agenda, the statewide LGBT lobbying group, downplayed the apparent final outcome in a statement on Monday.
“While the opponents of equality will make a lot of noise about the razor-thin margin in Republican Senator Roy McDonald’s primary, it should be noted that his challenger’s campaign was almost exclusively financed by out-of-state donations and the election featured historically low voter turnout,” said interim executive director Lynn Faria. “In a primary that our opponents tried to cast as a referendum on equality, Senator McDonald is losing by approximately 100 votes. This is the best our opponents could do.”
McDonald was the second Republican senator to publicly announce his support for marriage equality, following Senator James Alesi, who decided not to run for re-election. A media frenzy followed the senators in the days before the vote, prompting McDonald to tell reporters with exasperation that he was just “trying to do the right thing.”
“You get to the point where you evolve in your life where everything isn't black and white, good and bad, and you try to do the right thing," he said. "You might not like that. You might be very cynical about that. Well, fuck it, I don't care what you think. I'm trying to do the right thing.
"I'm tired of Republican-Democrat politics,” he continued. “They can take the job and shove it. I come from a blue-collar background. I'm trying to do the right thing, and that's where I'm going with this."