One of the four Republican state senators who cast a controversial yes vote on same-sex marriage last summer has told Capital Tonight exclusively that he is not going to seek re-election this year. Rochester area Senator Jim Alesi spoke with host Liz Benjamin Wednesday night to explain his decision.
NEW YORK STATE -- Since Senator Jim Alesi sparked controversy when he became the first Republican to publicly support same-sex marriage last year, those troubles were magnified by an ill-timed lawsuit Alesi brought against two of his own constituents. He dropped the suit and apologized repeatedly, calling the move boneheaded, but the damage was done.
Conservatives and many Republicans in his district began eyeing Alesi's seat and Democrats in the district also felt he was vulnerable and could be defeated.
When the senator sat down with us Wednesday night, he said he thought an intra party battle could cost the Republicans the majority and he decided to step aside for the good of the conference and the party. But he could barely bring himself to actually say the words I'm not running and became noticeably flustered when we did.
Alesi's decision was not entirely surprising. He has lost support from local GOP committees and was widely expected to face a primary challenge from Assemblyman Sean Hanna.
Still, during the interview, the senator claimed that Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos had been completely supportive of his decision to run for re-election and did not urge him to reconsider.
“At some point, you have to really look at what is good for the party. What makes it easiest to maintain the majority. And my not running is really the easiest way for the Senate Republicans to work with the Governor in the majority,” he said.
We also asked the senator what he plans to do next. He said he's unlikely to leave public life entirely and joked that with his liberal views on social issues, he could perhaps move to Manhattan and run for office where he'd be more likely to get elected.