Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday endorsed Republican Sen. Stephen Saland of Poughkeepsie, who cast the historic 32nd vote needed a year ago to legalize gay marriage in New York.
It was Cuomo’s first endorsement of a Republican, although the popular governor has long said he would support the GOP senators who voted for legalization of same-sex marriage. While most of the Senate’s Republican majority opposed the measure, Saland and three others voted for it, risking their careers in what they said were personal votes of conscience.
“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. “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.”
Cuomo also worked with Saland on the Republican’s bills to expand the state’s DNA data base as a crime-fighting tool and for tougher penalties for domestic violence and cyber bullying.
“I’m certainly honored,” Saland said in an interview. “I think the governor has established a new paradigm in Albany where there is bi-partisan, results-oriented action.”
The endorsement by Cuomo, who is also head of the state Democratic Party, didn’t sit well with Saland’s Democratic opponent, Terry Gipson.
“We understand that Governor Cuomo appreciates the support he received from Senator Saland for passing Marriage Equality — support he would have received from Terry Gipson without hesitation,” said campaign spokeman Brian Keeler. “However, moving forward, our governor is going to need real allies in Albany to help the people of New York,” he said, citing Gipson priorities including raising the minimum wage which is opposed by the Senate GOP.
One of the four Republicans who support the same-sex marriage bill, Sen. Roy McDonald of Saratoga County, lost his seat in a bitter GOP primary, based to a large degree on his vote.
Republican Sen. Mark Grisanti in Erie County won his primary, and Sen. James Alesi of Monroe County announced his retirement this year after strong opposition in his district for his support of the gay marriage bill.
In September, Saland won a narrow victory in the first Republican primary of his career in the district that includes Dutchess and Putnam counties. He won by a margin of 107 votes out of more than 9,800 cast.
He still faces Gipson and Conservative Neil Di Carlo in a difficult race. Di Carlo lost that Republican primary to Saland.
After Saland’s primary victory, Cuomo called the veteran Republican senator a man of integrity who voted his conscience. “I know what it’s like, and I respect what Sen. Saland did.”
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.