His vote on same-sex marriage drew nationwide attention.
A year later, that vote is still putting money in the bank for Mark J. Grisanti.
And it’s putting promises of big money in the campaign coffers of one of his political rivals – Charles M. Swanick – as well.
In the past few months alone, Grisanti, a Republican who is running for re-election in the 60th State Senate District, has pulled in sums including:
• $2,500 from the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign, a group that bills itself as the nation’s largest civil rights organization for gays and lesbians;
• $6,500 from Tim Gill of Denver, Colo., a big name on the national gay activism scene, who made a fortune by starting the computer software company Quark;
• $9,500 from David Dechman of New York City, a former Goldman Sachs executive who has been honored for his activism on behalf of gay causes.
Besides that, Grisanti last month received donations totaling $16,800 from James Alesi, the Rochester-area Republican who also voted for same-sex marriage last year. Alesi decided earlier this year not to pursue re-election to his Senate seat.
Alesi’s decision was claimed as a victory by opponents of same-sex marriage, including one national group that has promised to throw a whopping $50,000 – or more – behind the campaign of one of Grisanti’s rivals in November, Swanick.
The National Organization for Marriage, a Washington, D.C.-based group that is working to defend traditional definitions of marriage, said that Alesi’s departure without running again was just as effective for the group as its efforts in primary season to defeat other Republicans who voted yes on same-sex marriage in 2011.
“We’ve defeated Republican after Republican who voted for gay marriage, and we will defeat Mark Grisanti,” said Brian S. Brown, president of the group.
Brown said the Swanick candidacy is one of some 20 to 30 races around the United States that the national group is putting its money behind in the November elections.
“Mark Grisanti is a liar and a fraud. He turned his back on his pledge. He cannot be trusted,” said Brown. “We’ll do everything in our power to get the word out about Mark Grisanti.”
All together, it adds a note of further unpredictability to a race that has already shaped up in ways that confounded expectations.
In the primary in September, Swanick, 63, a linchpin in Northtowns Democratic politics and a well-known name in the region, suffered a surprising – and sizable – defeat to Michael L. Amodeo, 33, a Hamburg attorney who has never held political office.
But Swanick retained the Conservative Party line, and thus will be on the ballot in November.
In recent polling, Swanick, despite his minor-party candidacy, was supported by 17 percent of voters, a number not far behind Amodeo, who was attracting 23 percent of the vote in the Siena College poll.
There is also a fourth candidate in the race, Gregory L. Davis, who holds the Working Families Party line. Davis drew 6 percent of the vote in the Siena poll.
An added wrinkle to the issue came recently from the Working Families Party leaders, who said they would be working on behalf of Amodeo in the race, even though Davis is the name on the party’s line.
Political scientist Kevin R. Hardwick at Canisius College said it wasn’t surprising to see the issue of same-sex marriage become a motiving factor in hefty campaign funding in the 60th District race.
“People who favor gay marriage are passionate about that, and they support it.
They want to send a message,” said Hardwick, a Republican who is also a member of the Erie County Legislature. “And the other side wants to blunt that message, if nothing else.”
As of early October, there was a wide discrepancy in the amount of campaign cash the candidates in the 60th contest had on hand. For example:
• Grisanti, a Buffalo resident, had the most, with about $50,000 in the bank. That was a significantly lower balance than he has posted over the last few months, but the Grisanti campaign had spent about $160,000 on the race in recent weeks, including TV ads.
• Amodeo, the Democratic newcomer, had some $8,000 on hand, according to reports filed with the board of elections last week.
• Swanick, a Town of Tonawanda resident, had nearly $13,000 on hand. But that’s after the $35,000 infusion that the candidate had loaned himself earlier in the race.
Grisanti said he was somewhat amazed that his vote on marriage has continued to draw in sizable amounts of campaign cash from people across the state and around the country who support gay causes.
“I was surprised by the amount of money,” Grisanti said.
But he took a philosophical view of the money he has pulled in from activist donors.
“If I had voted against it,” he said, “I probably would have received money from other groups on the other side of it.”
Swanick did not return repeated calls from The Buffalo News.
Hardwick said Swanick’s presence in the race will likely add an interesting angle to the way votes are cast – especially since Swanick’s name on the Conservative line will give voters who don’t want to pull the level for Grisanti, over the marriage issue, another option.
The same goes for those who don’t want to vote for Amodeo, he said.
“The question is, who is Chuck Swanick going to draw those votes from?” Hardwick asked. “The consensus seems to be that there is no consensus. He might draw from both of the candidates equally.”
Amodeo, who said he spent most of his campaign funds on the hard-fought September matchup, added that he is seeking to build on that success by raising more money now that people know of him and his candidacy.
Those ambitions were dampened this week, when the state teachers union apparently decided not to pay for a batch of TV ads on Amodeo’s behalf.
“We’re still at the raising money part of it,” said Amodeo. “I realize we’re going to be outspent.
But I’m confident we’ll be able to get our message out.”