The veteran Republican state senator who cast the historic, deciding vote to legalize gay marriage in New York has won the political fight of his life.
Sen. Stephen Saland of Poughkeepsie on Monday won the long count from the Sept. 13 Republican primary by a 107-vote margin of about 9,800 votes cast, said Dutchess County elections official Erik Haight. He defeated Neil DiCarlo in the Hudson Valley District.
So far, two of the four senators who cast the critical votes for gay marriage in June 2011 have won primary challenges. The other is Sen. Mark Grisanti of Buffalo, who won more easily on primary night. Another, Sen. Roy McDonald, is trailing in a count of absentee ballots and challenged votes. A fourth, Sen. James Alesi of Monroe County, announced his retirement in the face of strong opposition.
"I knew it wasn't going to be a walk in the park. I knew there were elements of my party who were, to say the least, disappointed," Saland told The Associated Press. Now, "I think it certainly will be behind me. I think the majority of voters, whether they are Republicans, independents, or Democrats are interested in economic issues, retaining jobs and growing jobs."
Saland said he didn't waiver in the dramatic vote he cast that put his 21-year Senate career on the line.
"I had no regrets and I offer no apologies," he said Monday. "The vote that I cast was the correct vote and remains the correct vote."
A state judge certified the vote Monday afternoon. DiCarlo could still challenge Saland in November from the Conservative Party line, but Saland is expected to be stronger in the general election which is open to independent voters and Democrats.
DiCarlo also declared victory Monday in claiming the Conservative line. DiCarlo said Saland won only a "Pyrrhic" victory for which Saland suffered a heavy loss despite an influx of campaign funds from gay rights groups nationwide and from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
"The people of the 41st are holding Senator Saland accountable for his betrayal of traditional family values," DiCarlo said, while also faulting Saland for tax increases in Albany. DiCarlo termed Saland a "rhino," a political term meaning "Republican in name only."
McDonald, who also voted for gay marriage, is trailing in his primary to Saratoga County Clerk Kathleen Marchione. She, like DiCarolo, ran campaigns that targeted the incumbents' votes on same-sex marriage.
State Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long had warned Republicans before that 2011 vote that they would be challenged if they supported the gay marriage bill proposed by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo and strongly supported by Senate Democrats and the Assembly's Democratic majority.
Cuomo has called Saland, McDonald and Grisanti men of integrity who took courageous political action. Cuomo, the popular Democrat, has said he may even endorse the Republicans who helped him capture his biggest policy victory.
For Republicans, Saland's win means keeping a veteran as they try to retain the majority in November.
"This result shows the residents of the Hudson Valley remain focused on economic concerns and policies that directly impact their quality-of-life, issues that Senator Saland will continue to address as he transitions to the General Election," said Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Nassau County Republican.