State Sen. Roy McDonald will not actively campaign as a third-party candidate in the 43rd Senate District, he announced Thursday, following an absentee ballot count that on Monday showed Saratoga County Clerk Kathy Marchione had won the Republican nomination.
In an email, McDonald said he’ll be supporting Marchione because he is supporting all Republican Senate candidates.
“I believe maintaining the Republican Majority in the New York State Senate will continue to positively change state government,” he wrote. “It is important to recognize the need for checks and balances in our democracy, which can only be assured by a multi-party system.”
McDonald has the Independence Party ballot line, but indicated he will not campaign. A campaign on that line could have split his party’s vote and benefited Democratic candidate Robin Andrews in the heavily Republican district.
Thursday’s decision was contrary to a statement McDonald made the day after the election. He told The Daily Gazette he was ready to campaign just as a third-party candidate. “I’m in this to stay.”
McDonald and Marchione engaged in a highly contentious primary that apparently was sparked by his vote in favor of same-sex marriage, which prompted a conservative backlash. There was no mention of this vote in his email.
Instead, McDonald highlighted his time as chairman of the Senate’s Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Committee, his role in bringing GlobalFoundries to Malta and bills he passed to help people, including autism insurance legislation and programs to help veterans.
“I am proud of my time in public service. Standing up for the communities I represented was always my first priority,” McDonald wrote. “I have been a senator for all people.”
He said he would continue working as an advocate for people with disabilities and their families.
It is nearly impossible for McDonald to be removed from the general election ballot on the Independence line, which endorsed his candidacy this summer. He would have to die, commit a felony, move or get nominated for another elected office.
It’s not clear what impact McDonald’s name will have on the ballot, considering he won’t campaign. McDonald is a familiar name to voters in Saratoga and Rensselaer counties. In a 2010 state Senate race in Buffalo, incumbent Sen. Bill Stachowski, who didn’t actively campaign as the Independence candidate, got more than 6,000 votes in a race decided by about 1,500 votes.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, on Thursday announced his support for McDonald if he chose to stay in the race. “If he’s happy, I’m happy,” Cuomo said of McDonald’s decision not to run.
In response to McDonald’s announcement, Marchione released a statement that put aside the harsh words she had for him during the campaign.
“I congratulate Roy McDonald on a hard-fought race and I appreciate his support,” Marchione said. “He’s a good man who works tirelessly for our community.”
Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Rockville Centre, who has been relatively mum about this race since primary night, described McDonald’s move as the right one for the party. “The last thing he or anyone wanted to do was to turn this upstate seat over to the New York City-dominated Senate Democrats,” he said in a news release.
“Roy McDonald has also been a valuable part of the work we’ve done over the last two years to control spending and taxes, help the private sector create new jobs and bring New York back,” Skelos said. “I consider him a friend and wish him well in the future.”
McDonald served two terms in the Senate, first winning his seat in 2008 when long-time Sen. Joseph Bruno left. Before that he served in the Assembly and had a long career as the Wilton town supervisor.
If McDonald had run, the governor said, “He had tremendous support.”
That would have included help with his campaign and money from the Empire State Pride Agenda. In the wake of McDonald’s campaign decision, the group said it was unfortunate that a small minority of extremists in the district were able to end the career of a dedicated public servant.
“New York state has lost a valuable public servant as a result,” Lynn A. Faria, interim executive director of the Pride Agenda, said in a news release. Faria noted that recent polling indicated McDonald would have been competitive in a three-way race.
Following Marchione’s victory in the Republican primary, local party officials began to rally around Marchione’s candidacy. Saratoga County Republican Committee Chairman Jasper Nolan and Republican Assemblyman Tony Jordan, who had supported McDonald, were prepared to back Marchione as the party’s nominee.
The complete version of McDonald’s farewell email can be found on the Capital Region Scene at www.dailygazette.com.