Cuomo pledges his support to embattled McDonald in contentious Senate race
Governor: 'You paid a political price for your convictions. You should not be left to stand alone now.'
ALBANY Gov. Andrew Cuomo has promised to stand with Sen. Roy McDonald, R-Saratoga, if the two-term incumbent decides to pursue a third-party candidacy in the 43rd Senate District.
In a letter released Wednesday afternoon, the governor expressed regret at McDonald’s loss in the Republican primary to Saratoga County Clerk Kathy Marchione and acknowledged it was probably because of McDonald’s vote on marriage equality last summer. The cause had been championed by Cuomo, who promised to support any legislator who rallied behind him on the issue. McDonald was one of four Republican Senators who voted for the bill, with all four suffering various degrees of conservative backlash in their districts.
“I accept personal responsibility for proposing and strongly advocating the marriage equality legislation, and I remember personally asking for your support. You stood up for your principles, for equality and for a population long victimized,” Cuomo wrote to McDonald. “It is now evident that you paid a political price for your convictions. You should not be left to stand alone now.”
The governor goes on to say that whatever McDonald decides is up to him and that he will respect any decision, including if McDonald pursues a long-shot candidacy with the Independence Party, which backed the senator this summer. “But if you decide to go forward with your campaign you will have my full endorsement,” Cuomo wrote.
Last week the governor announced he was pulling for McDonald in his primary, but fell short of backing him for the general election.
The McDonald campaign has yet to announce its plans following the revelation Monday that there aren’t enough votes left to be counted for him to overcome Marchione’s lead. The results of the Sept. 13 primary have not been certified, but Marchione declared victory on Tuesday.
The McDonald campaign had “no comment” on the support from Cuomo. Following the primary election, McDonald told The Daily Gazette he would run regardless of what happened with the Republican nomination.
Siena pollster Steve Greenberg said it is premature to assess what Cuomo’s support means until McDonald announces his intentions.
It is possible that Cuomo’s support could bring with it the checkbook of the Committee to Save New York, the group backing the governor with millions of dollars to spend.
Additionally, Cuomo’s endorsement could benefit McDonald with voters across the political spectrum, as his popularity with Republicans and Democrats is above 60 percent based on the latest statewide polling.
The vote of support from Cuomo comes the same week as the Empire State Pride Agenda doubled down on its support for McDonald, despite the fact that Democratic candidate Robin Andrews is openly gay. A spokeswoman for ESPA confirmed Wednesday that McDonald will receive grassroots support in the form of workers and money if he is active in the general election.
Andrews released a statement Wednesday regarding Cuomo’s endorsement of McDonald, saying, “People working together across the aisle is a vital part of ensuring an operational government. As the first Democrat elected in the town of Claverack in 25 years, I know the value of people from opposite sides of the political spectrum being able to come together to make difficult decisions for the common good, and we hope for that from all our politicians,” she said.
Citing her 20-plus years as a budget and planning consultant, Andrews said she believes voters are not concerned with last year’s same-sex marriage vote but rather with finding ways to create jobs and making sure government resources are being used effectively.
Democrats in the district believe McDonald’s presence in the fall will only help Andrews and that there is a chance to win the heavily Republican district if McDonald actively campaigns.
The across-the-aisle support from Cuomo comes as Republicans have begun to rally around Marchione. Saratoga County Republican Committee Chairman Jasper Nolan, who had been an ardent supporter of McDonald, has already entered the Marchione fold. On Tuesday, Nolan said Marchione was the party’s nominee and the county committee was prepared to support her.
It is likely that other Republican officials and legislators will soon announce their support for Marchione. Assemblyman Tony Jordan, R-Jackson, who shares part of his district with the new 43rd Senate District and supported McDonald, said he would back Marchione if she is certified as his party’s nominee.
Heading into the general election, according to their latest campaign finance filings, McDonald has the most money, with about $25,000. Marchione has about $20,000 and Andrews reported having about $24,000 in July.