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Same-sex marriage supporters, opponents claim victory after primary

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Both pro- and anti-gay marriage forces are claiming victory after a split primary result in two key Senate races. Meanwhile, Governor Cuomo says two pro-same sex marriage Republican Senators who survived primary challengers were targeted by "extremists" within the GOP.

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Karen DeWitt
NYS Capitol Correspondent

Nearly two weeks after the Sept. 13 primary, Senator Stephen Saland of the Hudson Valley has been declared the winner in his GOP primary, where his opponent made an issue of the Senator’s swing vote on same-sex marriage. 
Senator Mark Grisanti of the Buffalo area, also a yes vote on same-sex marriage, already easily won a primary challenge. But Senator Roy McDonald, who represents Saratoga Springs and parts of the Capital Region, and who also voted for gay marriage, has apparently lost his primary race.
Erica Pelletreau, with gay rights group Empire State Pride Agenda, says opponents of gay marriage, who vowed to defeat every Republican lawmaker who voted for same-sex marriage, failed. She says the “bang” the opponents came in with, ended “with a whimper”.
Pelletreau’s group helped the GOP senators with financing and get out the vote efforts.
But the Reverend Jason McGuire, with New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, a group that supports traditional marriage, says his side has scored at least one clear victory by helping to defeat Senator McDonald. And he says Senator Saland, despite outspending his primary opponent, won by only 107 votes. 
“I think it was a very successful primary for us,” McGuire said.
McGuire says his group will be active in the November elections, opposing GOP Senators and Assemblymembers who voted for gay marriage.
Governor Cuomo, who convinced the three Senators, along with one other, to support his same-sex marriage bill, says he’s “elated” by Senator Saland’s win, and “concerned” over McDonald’s apparent loss. He says Senators Saland and Grisanti, who won, were unsuccessfully targeted by far-right elements in the GOP.
“They were threatened by the extremists in their own party,” said Cuomo. “It shows that they could act out of conscience, they could vote with integrity, and they could win the next election.”
McGuire, with New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, says Cuomo doesn’t get it.
“The governor doesn’t understand,” said Maguire. “This is the base of the Republican Party. It’s mainstream.”
Steve Greenberg, with Siena College’s Research Institute, says among the “most conservative republicans”, the vote on same-sex marriage was a big issue. He says low turnout in the races meant the most highly motivated voters actually showed up at the polls.
“The turnout was extraordinarily low,” said Greenberg, who say 85 percent of GOP voters did not vote in the primaries.
He says the view of those who voted in the GOP primaries does not necessary reflect the position of most of the Senators’ constituents.
“The majority of New Yorkers support same sex marriage,” Greenberg said.
McDonald could remain on the ballot in November on the Independence line, he has not yet said what he intends to do next. Governor Cuomo has not ruled out endorsing McDonald if the Senator stays in the race.

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