One of the three New York Republicans from conservative districts who cast the critical votes last year to legalize gay marriage won Thursday's primary elections, while the two other races were too close to call.
Those two races will likely be decided over coming days by counting a few hundred absentee ballots.
Two-term Sen. Roy McDonald was in a tight race against Kathleen Marchione, the Saratoga County clerk, while Sen. Stephen Saland of Poughkeepsie was in an unexpected squeaker against Neil DiCarlo of Brewster in Putnam County.
Across the state in Buffalo, Sen. Mark Grisanti declared victory over Kevin Stocker in the 60th District in a battle that included some of the most stark, anti-gay fliers in any of the primary races.
Saland in the Hudson Valley, and to a lesser extent McDonald in northern upstate, were expected to win, although by tight margins. Grisanti, a relative newcomer compared to Saland and McDonald, had been expected to face the toughest battle in Buffalo.
A year ago, McDonald agonized over his vote in Albany on the landmark gay marriage issue. He ultimately declared his choice as a personal one, which he knew likely wouldn't play well in his conservative 43rd district. When he was criticized, he told reporters that people could take his job "and shove it."
Besides hitting McDonald on the gay marriage issue, Marchione is known for leading a revolt of some county clerks statewide in 2007 when she famously derailed then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer's plan to issue driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.
In the Hudson Valley, Saland, a 20-year Senate veteran who cast the dramatic 32nd vote a year ago to legalize gay marriage, faced a surprising challenge. Challenger Neil DiCarlo of Brewster in Putnam County will force the 41st District primary to a count of absentee ballots.
Nearly 1,000 absentee votes were mailed out in the race.
In Buffalo, Grisanti had about 60 percent of the vote with most of the precincts reporting in unofficial returns. He declared victory.
Grisanti had cast his vote for gay marriage even though it wasn't needed at the time to pass the measure, and even though he was a freshman in the Senate who was more vulnerable politically.
In the Democratic primary for a chance to face Grisanti in the Buffalo district, Michael Amodeo beat Alfred Coppola.
State Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long had promised before the June 2011 gay marriage vote that any of the candidates the party had backed previously who voted for gay marriage would face primary challenges and lose the party's support in November. In New York, where Democrats have a nearly 2-1 enrollment advantage over Republicans, the Conservative endorsement has been important to attract more voters.
Sen. James Alesi of Monroe County, who cast the fourth Republican vote, retired in the face of political opposition back home.
Statewide, the primary was the first step to reshaping the Legislature because of an unusually large number of retirements and resignations of veteran lawmakers, many of whom took jobs in the Cuomo administration. More than 20 Assembly members and four senators leave office after their terms end Dec. 31.
In a race that had racial overtones, State Sen. Adriano Espaillat faced a primary challenge from Assemblyman Guillermo Linares. According to unofficial results Thursday night, Espaillat led Linares with about 60 percent of the vote in in that Democratic primary.
Espaillat's campaign had sent out a mailer to area residents in the Bronx/Manhattan district, saying Linares had "betrayed" Latinos by supporting U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel instead of Espaillat when those two faced off in a congressional primary in June. Espaillat and Linares are both Dominican.
Voters also were mixed on three incumbents in the midst of scandals.
With less than half the vote in, Democratic Sen. Shirley Huntley was trailing City Councilman James Sanders in Queens' 10th district. Huntley faces an indictment over state grants.
Democratic Assemblyman William Boyland Jr. led in Manhattan despite his corruption indictment in a race against six challengers.
And Naomi Rivera was trailing early in her 80th Assembly District primary in the Bronx against three challengers. Mark Gjonaj was leading. Rivera, a Democrat, is accused in tabloid articles of hiring her boyfriends to the state payroll.