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NY State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. has won a rare endorsement by Gov. Cuomo due to his swing vote on same-sex marriage. Photo: nysenate.gov
NY State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. has won a rare endorsement by Gov. Cuomo due to his swing vote on same-sex marriage. Photo: nysenate.gov

Gay marriage vote a factor in fall elections

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo made a rare endorsement in a state Senate contest on Monday, backing Democratic incumbent Joseph Addabbo.

Addabbo was one of a handful of Senators who provided swing votes to pass same-sex marriage last year. Now he's locked in a tight race with a Republican challenger, one of several legislators who may pay a price for that vote at the ballot box.

And that's only one way the repercussions from the historic vote last year are shaping in this fall's elections.

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Reported by

Karen DeWitt
NYS Capitol Correspondent

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When the New York State Senate voted on same-sex marriage last year, four Republicans and three Democrats switched their positions to approve the measure, after voting no the first time gay marriage came up for a vote in 2009. 

Gov. Cuomo and others praised the Republican senators who voted yes for their courage, but it may have been a poor decision for their immediate political futures. Two of the four will not be returning to Albany for another term. Senator James Alesi, of the Rochester area, did not seek reelection, and Senator Roy McDonald of the Capital Region lost in a Republican primary on September 13th. Senator Stephen Saland of the Hudson Valley barely squeaked by in a close primary contest. Senator Mark Grisanti of the Buffalo area was the only one to easily beat back a primary challenge.

But others say the successful gay marriage vote may have averted a larger threat for Republicans, who have been struggling to hold onto a narrow majority in the Senate. Bruce Gyory is a political consultant and SUNY Albany political science professor. He says the situation could look "very different" on November 7, the day after election day, than it did September 14, the day after state primaries.

Gyory says if the Senate GOP had not permitted the vote to go forward, some Republican incumbents would have been the target of pro-gay marriage groups. The groups could have helped Democratic opponents in many districts where voters are evenly split between the two parties, or in some cases, where registered Democrats hold a slight edge. He says Senator Skelos was politically smart to agree to hold the vote, even though he and most of the other Republicans planned to vote no.

“Senator Skelos showed great leadership in maneuvering to get this up for a vote…And in working with the governor.”

Governor Cuomo has had a good relationship with Senate Republicans, partly due to their acquiescence on the same-sex marriage vote. Without that cooperation, Gyory says, Cuomo might have campaigned actively for Democrats to take over the Senate. So far, Cuomo has remained relatively neutral, offering to back one Republican Senator, Roy McDonald and one Democratic Senator, Joe Addabbo, of Queens, who had provided the swing votes. 

Cuomo offered to endorse GOP Senator McDonald, if McDonald were to continue on after the primary on the Independence Party line for the November election, but McDonald decided to drop out instead. He backed Addabbo in an announcement on Columbus Day.

The two other Democratic Senators who switched their votes and helped approve gay marriage will also not be returning to the Capitol for another term, but the end of their political careers had nothing to do with their same-sex marriage vote.  Senator Carl Kruger of Brooklyn is now serving prison time for a bribery conviction, and Senator Shirley Huntley of Queens lost September’s Democratic primary after being arrested and charged with funneling state money into a phony charity. She’s pled not guilty.

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