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New York GOP lawmaker who supported gay marriage survives primary

Race too close to call for two other GOP supporters
Friday, September 14, 2012
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BUFFALO, N.Y. — New York State Sen. Mark Grisanti (R-Buffalo), one of the four Republicans who voted in favor of a marriage equality bill last year, and who has since been targeted by the anti-gay the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) because of that vote, won his GOP primary race Thursday.

But the race remains too close to call for two other GOP lawmakers who supported that same marriage equality legislation.

Grisanti scored a comfortable victory over his GOP rival Kevin T. Stocker, an attorney who accused Grisanti of breaking his word when he voted for the state same-sex marriage equality law.

Mark Grisanti

Grisanti garnered 60 percent of the vote.

“For people that know me, I stand by my beliefs and my convictions,” Grisanti told supporters.

“There are so many issues that we have done in this year. And unfortunately, you know, my opponent focused on a few. But the people spoke.”

The New York Times reported, however, that Grisanti’s troubles are not over. He represents a district that is heavily Democratic, and Democrats see him as vulnerable in November. Grisanti attracted unflattering attention this year when he took part in a bar brawl in an American Indian casino in Niagara Falls.

The fate of the Senate Republicans is being closely watched nationally, because New York was the first state in which same-sex marriage became legal with the support of a Republican-controlled legislative chamber.

Gay-rights advocates believe they will need support from Republican legislators in other states to legalize same-sex marriage, and they have been concerned that if the New York senators were defeated, Republicans elsewhere would be more reluctant to take the electoral risk of voting to allow gay men and lesbians to wed.

Brian Ellner, an LGBTQ-rights advocate who helped lead the push to legalize same-sex marriage in New York, told the Times early Friday morning that it was too soon to draw conclusions.

“We’re thrilled with Senator Grisanti’s win, and remain optimistic and hopeful that Senators McDonald and Saland will prevail when all the votes are counted,” Mr. Ellner said. “These legislators, they followed their conscience, they did the right thing, and they’ve made New York a better place to live for all of us.”

Earlier this year, the NOM pledged $2 million to unseat every one of the four GOP state Senators who voted in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage in New York.

Roy McDonald and Stephen Saland were among the four Senate Republicans to support the marriage equality bill, and as of Friday, their races are still too close to call. The fourth GOP Senator, James Alesi, was not seeking re-election.

McDonald trailed Kathy Marchione, a county clerk, by more than 100 votes with about 1,100 absentee and affidavit ballots left to count. Saland led his opponent, financial executive Neil Di Carlo, by 42 votes with about 700 paper ballots to sort out. It could take at least two weeks to determine the winners.

Grisanti had also been the subject of an attack flyer this week that political pundits and journalists had label “political porn,” and that Buzzfeed political reporter Chris Geidner called the “…ugliest anti-gay mailer of the 2012 election.”

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