In a stunning — but not all together unexpected — upset defeat, Sen. Mark Grisanti lost the Republican Party’s nomination for the 60th district Senate Senate seat that he now holds.
While he continues to have the endorsement of the Independence Party, most political observers expect him to step aside — despite the campaign’s forward posture.
If Grisanti does decide to pursue the seat, he will have to make the case to voters that he has a viable chance of winning, which is a difficult case to make. In his two short terms in office, Grisanti has managed to alienate small government activists on the right and organized labor on the left.
Some suggest that Grisanti may attempt to repeat his performance in 2012, when he ran on his moderate Republican record and beat Democrat Mike Amodeo and Conservative Chuck Swanick, who is also a Democrat but ran on the minor party line.
Now, Grisanti will not have the backing of the local or statewide Republican establishments, which are expected to fall in line behind Kevin Stocker.
While Grisanti might have some downstate donor relationships with the gay rights activist Peter Senger and the anti-gun activist Mike Bloomberg, their donations are generally limited to $16,500.
Given Grisanti’s national profile following his decisive marriage equality vote, those deep pocked Manhattan billionaires may feel compelled to go “all-in” on a Grisanti rescue plan. But that would inflame the already robust criticism that the incumbent is owned by downstate interest and quick to fight their culture wars.
Political operatives price such a rescue plan in the $2 to $3 million range. It would require huge ad buys, an expensive field operation, top notch messaging, and campaign thematics that Grisanti’s current team would be incapable to architect.
The more likely scenario is that Grisanti finds a graceful way to step aside and announce that he will not be actively pursuing the seat out of respect for the voters in his party. His name would continue to appear on the ballot, and he’d likely receive many Democrat votes.
Democrats are worried that he will siphon votes from their candidate and allow Stocker an easy win. They figure that the more actively Grisanti campaigns, the more votes he will take from the Democrat.