The outcome for two of the three Republican senators who voted for marriage equality last year remained unclear after the primary elections Thursday, throwing an element of uncertainty into the closely watched contests expected to send a signal to lawmakers weighing similar votes around the nation.
Grisanti won a “comfortable victory” of 60% to 40% over his challenger, Kevin Stocker, according to the Buffalo News. Stocker declined to take a clear stance on marriage, but he and third parties attacked Grisanti for his vote. A homophobic and racy mailer circulated by e-mail this week, which Stocker disavowed, harshly criticized the freshman incumbent for accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions from marriage equality advocates. Meanwhile, a disco-themed mailer had depicted Grisanti in a green leisure suit and proclaimed he “Legalized Gay Marriage!”
Grisanti could face a challenging general election in his Erie County district where the majority of voters are Democrats. His Democratic opponent will be Mike Amodeo, who also supports marriage equality. Chuck Swanick, who opposes the issue and has been endorsed by the National Organization for Marriage, will run on the Conservative Party line that was denied Grisanti in part because of his marriage vote, making for a three-way contest.
Final results are still pending in the primary elections for Senators Roy McDonald and Stephen Saland, who joined Grisanti in voting for marriage equality. Both faced challengers from the right who criticized their vote.
“Senator Roy J. McDonald, of the capital region, trailed his opponent by a little more than 100 votes at the end of the night, and Senator Stephen M. Saland, of Poughkeepsie, led his opponent by just 42 votes,” reports The New York Times. “In both races, there were enough uncounted absentee ballots to change the outcome.”
Saland had been targeted by a mailer from opponent Neil Di Carlo that depicted him as a child holding the hands of his “two daddies,” Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The governor spearheaded the effort to pass the legislation while the mayor lobbied the Republican-led legislature and made generous contributions to the senators who supported it. Saratoga County Clerk Kathy Marchione, who challenged McDonald, reminded voters of his comment last year that voters could "took this job and shove it" in response to the attention surrounding his announcement that he would vote yes on the legislation.
The fourth Republican senator to vote for marriage equality, James Alesi, announced this year he would not seek re-election.
The Log Cabin Republicans of New York State, which backed the senators in their re-election bids, issued a statement Friday afternoon expressing confidence that "all will return to Albany next year.”
“Civil marriage for gay couples has been legal in New York State for well over a year, and all of the doomsday fear-mongering marriage equality opponents threatened never came to pass, but that did not stop political opportunists from using a barrage of misinformation and hateful rhetoric to bully their way into competitiveness," said Gregory T. Angelo, the chairman, speaking on behalf of the group.
In other races of interest, Senator Shirley Huntley of Queens, one of three Democrats to change her vote from no to yes in 2011, lost her primary election to City Councilmember James Sanders, who was endorsed by NOM. Huntley was under indictment for corruption charges, and the antigay group acknowledged on its blog that her legal predicament “probably played a roll (sic) as well.”
Also in Queens, City Councilmember Eric Ulrich won the Republican primary over Juan Reyes, who had sent a mailer attacking Ulrich for his associations with gay lawmakers and hiring openly gay staff members. Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani denounced the mailer as “disgusting” in endorsing Ulrich over Reyes, his one-time aide. Ulrich will challenge Joseph Addabbo, the Democratic incumbent, who voted for marriage equality last year after opposing it in 2009.
And on the West Side of Manhattan, in the race to succeed retiring Senator Tom Duane, the chamber’s first openly gay member, community leader Brad Hoylman won a resounding victory over two opponents in the Democratic primary. He took 69 percent of the vote with 94 percent of precincts reporting, according to DNAinfo, and faces no Republican opposition in November.