New York Republican for Marriage Equality Will Not Seek Reelection

James Alesi, the first Republican state senator to announce his support for marriage equality in New York, will not seek reelection this fall.

BY Julie Bolcer

May 10 2012 11:01 AM ET

Alesi revealed his intentions in an interview with Capital Tonight on Wednesday. He attributed his decision to the desire to help his party maintain its slim 32-30 majority in the senate.

The senator, who likely would have faced a primary challenger, had lost Republican committee support in his Rochester district. Much of the turmoil, however, resulted from a lawsuit he filed against two of his constituents, not his vote for marriage equality. Democrats also viewed him as vulnerable.

“At some point, you have to really look at what is good for the party,” he said. “What makes it easiest to maintain the majority. And my not running is really the easiest way for the Senate Republicans to work with the governor in the majority,” he said.

Republicans recaptured the state Senate, long a bastion of GOP power in New York, in 2010 after Democrats briefly took the helm in 2008. Interest in maintaining the majority factored into the Republican leadership’s decision to bring the marriage equality bill to a vote last June, as polls showed that a supermajority of New Yorkers favored the legislation.

Alesi has represented the Rochester area in the Senate since 1996. The day after he announced his support for marriage equality in a meeting with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and advocates, he told attendees at a rally in Albany, “I am Jim Alesi. I am a Republican. I was born that way.”

Four Republican state senators supported the marriage equality bill, which passed by a 33-29 vote. High-profile donors such as Paul Singer and New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg have helped contribute to their reelection bids, including with an event last October that raised $1.2 million. This past Monday, the Log Cabin Republicans of New York honored the Republican leader, Sen. Dean Skelos, and his conference at a fund-raiser in Albany.

“It’s disappointing Senator Alesi has decided not to run for another term, but this was a personal decision for him and Log Cabin Republicans respects that,” said Log Cabin Republicans of New York state chairman Gregory T. Angelo, in a statement. “The driving force behind the senator’s position was his support of the GOP caucus and his desire to see Republicans maintain the majority in the state Senate in November. Senator Alesi is a noble and honorable legislator, and this decision reflects his loyalty and dedication.”

Advocates have attached extreme importance to the political futures of the four senators in New York because of the signal their fates will send to other lawmakers around the country. To date, almost 200 Republican state lawmakers have expressed support for marriage equality legislation and none has lost a seat yet because of that reason. The decision by Alesi assures that streak remains in place for now.

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