Absentee Ballots Will Decide Fate of Two GOP State Senators Who Backed Gay Marriage

Saland. Photo: New York State Assembly

A pair of Republican state senators who voted for New York's Marriage Equality Act became locked in too-close-to-call primary battles on Thursday and will have to wait for tallies from absentee ballots to learn whether they will hold on to their seats. Twelve-term senator Stephen Saland representing Dutchess and Columbia counties leads challenger Neil Di Carlo by just 42 votes with all precincts reporting, while two-term senator Roy McDonald from the capital region trails Kathleen Marchione by 138 votes with 99 percent reporting, according to the Times.

Saland was the target of an anti-gay mailer circulated by Di Carlo's campaign, which depicted Saland holding hands with Governor Cuomo (wearing a rainbow sash, to make it totally clear) and Mayor Bloomberg, exclaiming "my two daddies." Another Republican incumbent who faced mailers attacking his support for the Marriage Equality Act (sent by an apparent outsider who once worked for him), Mark Grisanti from the Buffalo area, easily defeated challenger Kevin Stocker by a 60 to 40 margin. Grisanti, Saland, and McDonald were three of only four Republican senators who voted in favor of same-sex marriage.

Queens city councilman Eric Ulrich was also assailed by primary opponent Juan Reyes in the days leading up to the election for supporting gay marriage and dining with an openly gay Democrat. Ulrich won the 15th District contest by nearly a 70 to 30 margin.

As the Times notes, New York is the first state with a Republican-controlled legislative chamber to legalize same-sex marriage, so Republicans in other states may consider how the incumbents fared, and whether a vote for same-sex marriage cost them a seat. Said the Reverend Jason McGuire, executive director of the conservative group New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms: “It demonstrates that to every Republican who said that marriage didn’t matter to the voters, it sure does."