Of the four republican state senators who voted for gay marriage last year, two are fighting for their seats with results too close to call. Governor Cuomo is expressing his support for those incumbents, calling their votes an act of political courage. Capital Tonight's Nick Reisman reports.
NEW YORK STATE -- It wasn't a full-throated endorsement, but Governor Andrew Cuomo came close. The highest elected Democratic official in New York says he hopes Senators Roy McDonald and Stephen Saland, both facing razor-close primary challenges now under an absentee ballot count, are re-elected. Both Republican lawmakers backed Cuomo's same-sex marriage law in 2011.
“I think this vote, which was a difficult vote, showed character and integrity. I hope it works out for both gentlemen. They're in the middle of recounts now and I hope it works out. I hope they get re-elected,” Cuomo said.
But the governor stopped short of a formal endorsement. Still, he didn't rule out backing Republicans this fall.
Cuomo said, “Let's see how it goes, but I'm considering a range of endorsements on both sides of the aisle.”
Cuomo is one of the most popular governors in the country with a steady approval rating of 70 percent and an endorsement from Cuomo could help Saland or McDonald should they continue on in the general election. But Cuomo didn't endorse them before last week's primary. When asked about it during a press conference on Wednesday, he dismissed the idea.
“My support was not going to help and you could argue that my support would actually have been a negative in that context because I would have been a great reminder of the marriage equality vote,” Cuomo said.
Republicans have a 33 to 29 majority in the State Senate and the losses of McDonald and Saland to more socially conservative candidates could hurt their chances of holding power. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said back in August at the Republican National Convention that he would not turn away any endorsements from Cuomo.
Skelos said, “Of course I would. If he thinks it's appropriate, absolutely. He's a very popular governor and it wouldn't bother me in the least.”
Both McDonald and Saland could run on the Independence Party line this fall.
Senator Mark Grisanti, another pro-gay marriage Republican from Buffalo, easily won his primary. The fourth Republican to back the law, Senator James Alesi of Monroe County, is retiring.