The National Organization for Marriage invested large sums of money — it pledged millions, but how much it spent remains unclear — into fighting the Republican state senators in New York who voted for marriage equality last year and are seeking reelection. To that end, NOM seems to have had mixed results at best in yesterday’s low-turnout primary, including a notable failure.
One of NOM’s prime targets was Sen. Mark Grisanti (R), who represents the Buffalo area of New York. A year ago, NOM was running billboards in his district that simply said, “Mark Grisanti, You’re Next.” Grisanti was unfazed by the threats, and with good reason: yesterday he easily won his primary with 60 percent of the vote. NOM’s Brian Brown tweeted today that his group would pledge to beat Grisanti in the general election, but the Democrat NOM endorsed, Charles Swanick, also lost his primary to Mike Amodeo, garnering only 26.3 percent of the vote. Amodeo, like Grisanti, supports marriage equality.
State Sen. Steven Saland (R) helped craft the religious protections that ultimately helped New York’s marriage equality bill pass. He described the vote as “the most difficult decision” he ever had to made, but it was informed by the support of his family. Saland’s opponent, Neil Di Carlo (R), sent thousands of voters anti-Semitic mailers describing him as a “puppet” of the “liberal gay mafia.” The race is too close to call at this point, but Saland is currently winning with 50.2 percent . Absentee votes may shift that, but either way, the result hardly measures up to NOM’s bold claim that “a vote for gay marriage is a career ender.”
Sen. Roy McDonald (R) might not fare as well, but his race against NOM-endorsed Kathleen Marchione is also too close to call. Marchione leads with 50.5 percent of the vote, but as in Saland’s race, absentee votes could shift the balance.
Even if both Saland and McDonald lose their primaries, there’s no guarantee NOM will convince voters to support their more conservative candidates. As Jeremy Hooper points out, “NOM was not been able to hyper-motivate any sort of extra enthusiasm on their side.” And even if this vindictive politicking works, the anti-gay group’s hope of someday overturning marriage equality in New York by flipping seats in both the Senate and Assembly remains completely unrealistic.