Indys Go With Grisanti, But Remain Open To Endorsing Dems (Updated With Video)
The state Independence Party was closely allied with the Senate GOP during the Joe Bruno days and sometimes helped provide the margin of victory in close races that enabled the Republicans to retain their long-standing hold on the majority.
So close were Bruno and the Indys that the former majority leader got his closest Democratic compatriot, former Sen. Carl Kruger, to put the party’s vice chairman, Tom Connolly, on his Senate payroll. (Recall that Kruger was the first – and only – Democrat to be given a committee chairmanship by Bruno is a show of supposed bipartisanship back in 2007).
Things have been a bit more fluid since Dean Skelos took over as majority leader, even though state Independence Party Chairman Frank MacKay and Skelos are both Long Islanders (Suffolk and Nassau counties, respectively).
But in a move that could prove crucial for the Senate Republicans’ most endangered member, freshman Mark Grisanti, MacKay today traveled to Buffalo to personally announce an early endorsement of the embattled Democrat-turned-Republican.
This comes on the heels of the Erie County Conservative Party’s decision last week to dump Grisanti in favor of Democrat Chuck Swanick.
The Independence Party was neutral in the 2010 race in which Grisanti defeated former Democratic Sen. Antoine Thompson in one of the most Democrat-dominated districts of the state. (MacKay insisted during a brief telephone interview this afternoon that decision was “nothing personal” to either Grisanti or Thompson).
I reached MacKay on his cell phone after this afternoon’s endorsement press conference – the Indy Party’s first official nod in this election cycle. He said his support is not specifically intended as a counterweight to Grisanti’s loss of Row C, but did acknowledge that both the senator’s loss of the Conservative nod and his own endorsement decision were motivated by Grisanti’s “yes” vote on same-sex marriage last summer.
“This is an individual who showed great independence, who hasn’t voted along party lines and has taken some very courageous votes in a short period of time,” MacKay said. “I’m absolutely proud to stand behind him.”
“…Quite frankly, when he voted for marriage equality, although we don’t take a stance on that as a party, I was very impressed with his independence on that. I told Senator Grisanti when I first met him after a very tough vote that I would be there for him. His show of independence on some very tough issues stood out to me.”
“I said to myself: This is a true independent. This has nothing to do with what any other party has done. If no other party had endorsed him, I still would have done this.”
MacKay, as you’ll recall, issued a personal statement in support of gay marriage during the lead-up to the vote that was highly orchestrated by the Cuomo administration. MacKay said at the time that gay marriage votes would not become a “litmus test” for receiving Row E this fall.
“We’re looking at candidates individually,” the chairman told me today.
It remains unclear whether the Senate Democrats will feel comfortable enough with Swanick’s anti-gay marriage and anti-abortion rights (except in cases of rape and incest) positions to back him against Grisanti. It wouldn’t be the first time they’ve supported a conservative WNY Democrat. Sen. Tim Kennedy is pro-life, but also voted “yes” on gay marriage.
MacKay is an ally of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and gave him an early endorsement back in 2010, which the now-governor and then-AG accepted despite the Manhattan DA’s investigation involving the party and theft of close to $1 million worth of Mayor Bloomberg’s cash by GOP operative John Haggerty.
There has been a lot of speculation about whether Cuomo will help the Senate Democrats in their quest to re-take the majority this fall, particularly in the case of top targets like Grisanti, who did what Cuomo wanted and voted “yes” on marriage. MacKay insisted that he had not discussed his endorsement of Grisanti with Cuomo, saying he talked to no one outside his party other than Sen. George Maziarz and Grisanti himself.
|Print article||This entry was posted by Liz Benjamin on February 28, 2012 at 3:16 pm, and is filed under Andrew Cuomo, Democrats, Independence Party, Republicans, Same-sex Marriage, State Senate, Uncategorized. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.|
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