* Two Republicans among those who voted for gay marriage
* Final results may come down to absentee ballots
* Races watched in states likely to consider gay marriage
By Barbara Goldberg
NEW YORK, Sept 14 One of three New York state
senators who faced tight Republican Party primary elections
because they backed same-sex marriage appears to have fended off
his challenger, but the results of the other two closely watched
contests were still too close to call on Friday.
Senators Mark Grisanti, Roy McDonald and Stephen Saland were
among just four New York Senate Republicans to cast crucial
votes last year to make New York the most populous U.S. state to
allow gay men and lesbians to marry. The fourth Republican
senator who backed the measure, which passed the
Republican-controlled Senate on a 33-29 vote in June 2011, was
not seeking re-election.
According to unofficial results from Thursday's primary
elections across the state, voters appear to have stuck with
Grisanti but tallies in the challenges to McDonald and Saland
were so close that the final result will come down to the
absentee ballot count and may not be known for weeks.
The three races were being watched for the strength of the
grass-roots backlash against Republican legislators who break
with the party's stance opposing same-sex unions. Lawmakers in
Rhode Island, Delaware and elsewhere are expected to weigh gay
marriage legislation next year and some Republican backing could
be needed to pass those measures.
And this November, voters in four states -- Maine, Maryland,
Minnesota and Washington -- will decide ballot initiatives on
the issue. Gay marriage has been legalized in seven states and
the District of Columbia.
After polls closed in Buffalo on primary day on Thursday,
Grisanti had a comfortable margin of more than 1,700 votes over
challenger Kevin Stocker, a former local prosecutor, according
to unofficial results posted on the Erie County Board of
Elections website. More than 1,000 absentee ballots that have
yet to be opened, according to an election official.
In the Saratoga Springs area, just north of the state
capital of Albany, however, McDonald was trailing Saratoga
County Clerk Kathy Marchione by about 130 votes, according to
tallies posted on county election board websites, and hundreds
of absentee ballots are yet to be counted.
In her campaign, Marchione accused McDonald of breaking a
promise "to defend traditional marriage."
In another race in the Poughkeepsie area, in the Hudson
Valley about 80 miles (130 km) north of New York City, Saland
was just 42 votes ahead of Neil Di Carlo, who describes himself
on his campaign website as "100 percent pro-family" and said he
would repeal same-sex marriage legislation if elected.
Election boards in Dutchess and Putnam counties still must
count more than 600 absentee ballots in the race, board
Ahead of the primary, gay marriage advocates said the
challenges to the three senators were being watched closely as a
proxy for testing the momentum of the national drive to legalize
"If all three candidates win it shows that it's safe for
candidates and increasingly safe for Republicans to vote for the
freedom to marry," said Marc Solomon, national campaign director
for Freedom to Marry, an advocacy group for the right of
same-sex couples to wed.
If the senators lose, Solomon said, "It won't help."