The closely watched New York state senate elections brought mixed results Tuesday, as Senator Mark Grisanti declared victory while Senator Stephen Saland, who joined him in supporting marriage equality legislation last year, appeared to be losing his bid for reelection.
Both Grisanti and Saland faced primary challenges from opponents backed by the National Organization For Marriage. Grisanti, a freshman from Buffalo, easily won his primary in which he was criticized for his marriage equality vote. Saland, an 11-term incumbent from Poughkeepsie, narrowly emerged from his primary and later received an endorsement from Governor Andrew Cuomo, the popular Democrat who spearheaded the push for the legislation.
In the general election, Grisanti took 50% of the vote in a four-way race with 94% of precincts reporting, according to the Buffalo News. His Democratic opponent, Mike Amodeo, took 36% of the vote, while Charles Swanick, who was backed by NOM and ran as the candidate for the Conservative Party of New York State, received 12%.
Saland seemed on the verge of a loss late Tuesday to Terry Gipson, the Democratic challenger, who supports marriage equality. Unofficial results reported by the Poughkeepsie Journal gave Saland 47,749 votes compared to 49,352 for Gipson, with 16,220 for Neil Di Carlo, who was backed by NOM and ran as the candidate for the Conservative Party of New York State. The votes won by Di Carlo, who ran against the marriage equality vote, appeared to make the difference in Saland's performance. Paper ballots still remained to be counted.
Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long said his candidate Di Carlo was not to blame for Saland's prospective defeat, according to Gannett Albany. Long withheld his party's influential endorsement from the Republicans who backed the marriage equality legislation.
"It wasn't Neil Di Carlo that did this to Steve Saland," he said. "It was Steve Saland that did this to himself."
A total of four Republican senators broke ranks with their party to support the legislation. Marriage equality advocates fortified them with financial backing for the anticipated primary challenges from the right.
Senator James Alesi opted not to seek reelection, and his Rochester seat appeared to be won by Ted O'Brien, a Democrat. Senator Roy McDonald lost his primary election to Kathy Marchione, who defeated Robin Andrews, a Democrat seeking to become the first openly lesbian candidate elected to the New York state senate.
The political fates of the four Republican senators hold the potential to send a signal to lawmakers considering marriage equality votes in other states next year, such as Delaware and Rhode Island. More immediately, the outcomes also hold implications for control of the state senate, where Republicans currently have a narrow 33-29 majority.
Following Tuesday's election results, two Republican seats appeared to be headed to Democrats, leaving the chamber evenly divided at 31-31, while a new seat remained too close to call, according to the Associated Press.