Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long on Wednesday dismissed the idea that his candidate was to blame for Sen. Stephen Saland’s potential downfall, instead pointing to votes Saland took that Long says alienated his political base.
Saland, a Poughkeepsie Republican, faced a challenge from Conservative candidate Neil Di Carlo, who nearly defeated the incumbent in a September primary. On Tuesday, Di Carlo grabbed more than 16,000 votes as Saland trailed Democrat Terry Gipson by 1,600 votes with paper ballots still left to count.
Long said Saland has himself to blame.
“It wasn’t Neil Di Carlo that did this to Steve Saland,” Long told Gannett’s Albany Bureau Wednesday. “It was Steve Saland that did this to himself.”
Saland was one of four Republican senators to vote in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage last year, critical support that allowed the measure to pass the GOP-held Senate. Long and the Conservative Party made clear that they wouldn’t support anyone who voted in favor of the bill, and followed through on the threat.
Two of those Republicans—retiring Sen. James Alesi and Sen. Roy McDonald, who was defeated in a primary—will not be returning to the chamber in 2013, while Saland’s situation appears tenuous.
On Wednesday, Long said it was more than Saland’s vote on same-sex marriage that angered the Conservatives, citing a December legislative package that increased taxes on the wealthy over rates that were due to kick in in 2012.
“Steve Saland took for granted his base vote,” Long said. “There is a strong conservative Republican voice and base in his Senate district that basically threw their hands up and felt betrayed by him.”
Saland, meanwhile, has stuck by his votes and has repeatedly said he has no regrets. He has not conceded the race, and expressed optimism last night that he may be able to eke out a victory after absentee and affidavit ballots are counted.
Long said his relationship with Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and the Republican conference remains “good,” despite Democrats picking up Alesi’s seat and potentially Saland’s.
“I want them to keep control but I was not going to throw the principles of the party out the window for the purpose of keeping control,” Long said. “That’s the lesson that legislators have to understand. They have to understand that when they vote—many times, not all the times—votes have consequences.”
(AP file photo)