By Tom Precious
ALBANY -- Sen. Steve Saland, a Dutchess County Republican who was the first GOP lawmaker to publicly back gay marriage rights in New York, conceded defeat today in his re-election contest against Democrat Terry Gipson.
That leaves Sen. Mark Grisanti, a Buffalo Republican, as the sole GOP senator -- of the four who broke with their party to back the marriage equality legislation passed into law last year -- returning to Albany with his legislative job come January. [Grisanti, courtesy of Senate Republicans and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, was given a new district to run on in November with far fewer Democrats than his old district.]
Besides Saland, who lost the Conservative Party line he needed to have been competitive in the general election, one of the other GOP senators who backed the gay marriage bill chose to retire instead of running in a race Republicans said he would have lost and the another was defeated during the September primary.
Republicans have been waging legal battle over paper ballots in the Saland race, but since election day GOP sources have privately said there was no way Saland was going to be returning to Albany.
"I join all New Yorkers in wishing Senator Steve Saland the best as he completes a 32-year career in the State Legislature, the last 22 as a distinguished member of the New York State Senate. Steve is a
highly-respected lawmaker and a dear friend,'' Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said in a written statement of his colleague who he said was the author of 350 state laws.
UPDATE: Governor Cuomo checked in this afternoon with his reaction to the election concession statement by Saland; Cuomo owes much to Saland for his role in getting the governor's gay marriage law proposal through the Senate. Here is part of the statement:
"Senator Stephen Saland has been an exemplary representative for the Hudson Valley whose leadership has made New York a better place. Steve has been a true partner who always put what was right before politics, and worked with me during the past two years to rebuild this state and restore the people’s faith in government,'' Cuomo said.
"As a result of his courage, tens of thousands of couples here in New York State have the freedom to marry whom they choose. Steve is a public servant of remarkable character, integrity, and courage and serves as a model for our collective aspirations of how our elected officials should perform. It is unfortunate that an elected official who stood so strong for equality, as Steve did, was not able to survive in today's political environment,'' he added.