Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York endorsed Senator Stephen Saland for reelection Thursday, marking the first time the popular Democrat has backed a member of the Republican Party.
Saland provided one of four Republican votes for the marriage equality legislation that passed the GOP-controlled state senate last year. His vote became an issue in his primary campaign, which he narrowly won last month. The twelve-term incumbent now faces a three-way general election contest.
"The governor believes that one of the problems in our political system is the influence of extremists on both sides of the aisle," said Cuomo spokesman Matthew Wing, according to the Associated Press. "He is endorsing Senator Saland because he has consistently had the courage to do what was right despite political challenges, especially when it came to voting for marriage equality."
Saland said he was “honored” by the endorsement, telling the AP, "I think the governor has established a new paradigm in Albany where there is bi-partisan, results-oriented action."
Cuomo previously indicated he would support another of the four Republican senators, Roy McDonald, had he chosen to proceed with a general election campaign after losing his primary last month. The governor sent McDonald a letter in which he acknowledged his vote for marriage equality was a “contributing factor” in his defeat, and he criticized the influece of “extremists” from both parties on the political process.
Two other Republican senators voted for the marriage equality legislation. Senator Mark Grisanti won his primary and faces a three-way general election, while Senator James Alesi announced his plans to retire this year.
Cuomo, who has largely avoided the national spotlight in favor of focusing on New York, also plans to campaign for President Barack Obama and New York Democrats in close House races, according to the Wall Street Journal. His travel destinations have not yet been disclosed by the Obama campaign.
"I'll do whatever they ask me to do," said Cuomo of the Obama campaign in a radio interview. "But I don't want to step over a line that could fuel potential speculation of, 'Well, Cuomo is looking to run in 2016.'"