What Republicans Said After a Visit From Bloomberg

Bloomberg, center, with GOP State Senator Greg Ball, right. photo credit: azi paybarah / ny observer

Michael Bloomberg was in Albany lobbying Republican State Senators to legalize same-sex marriage.

So far, it doesn’t appear to have gotten any of them on board.

The mayor attended a press conference in the morning about anti-terrorism funding, along with two Republican State Senators, Greg Ball of Putnam County and Marty Golden of Brooklyn.

Later, both said they were not on board with supporting same-sex marriage.

Ball told reporters, “Right now I’m absolutely undecided.”

Golden told me the opposition that blocked the marriage legislation in 2009 has not changed. When I asked him about the political fallout for Governor Cuomo, who has said he wants the bill passed “now,” Golden said there wouldn’t be much and that “people don’t give a rat’s ass about social issues. People are worried about paying their mortgage, paying their rent.”

Before walking into a meeting with State Senate Leader Dean Skelos, the mayor stood and chatted with Lee Zeldin, a freshman from Nassau County. Zeldin told me he opposes same-sex marriage and that “I got to let my my principles guide my way, not where a particular donor wants you to be.”

John Flanagan of Long Island emerged from the Skelos/Bloomberg meeting early and said he had already had gotten a visit from the New York City mayor. When I asked Flanagan about same-sex marriage, he said it was one of the topics he and the mayor discussed and that Bloomberg was “gracious” about it. (The other topic was changes to the teacher evaluation system, which Flanagan said wasn’t likely to happen this year.)

After a nearly 20-minuted closed-door meeting with Skelos, Bloomberg left, telling a gaggle of reporters only that he was happy to be in the state’s capital.

A spokesman for Skelos later emerged to say the Senate Leader went immediately into another meeting and was not available for comment. The spokesman also said Skelos hasn’t polled his members and it was unclear if the bill would be considered for a vote.

State Senator Andrew Lanza of Staten Island searched for a way to define his position during a scrum with reporters yesterday afternoon.

“I am unequivocally a ‘No,’ today,” said Lanza, standing outside the Senate chambers.

“This is not a good place to be if you’re a politician.” He added, “This is not a good place to be in. This is an honest place I find myself in.”

“I’m trying to be honest with you,” Lanza continued. “I find myself in this sucky position of not having a firm position,” and “I might be a yes one day, as long as I’m open to it. But right now, I am not.”

I asked Lanza who has made the more effective lobbying effort: Governor Cuomo with a statewide tour, or Mayor Bloomberg with personal meetings in Albany?

“I think the governor’s statewide tour is pretty irrelevant,” said Lanza.

Down the hall was Senator Ball.

He said he objects to the bill because it would expose religious institutions to discrimination lawsuits. When asked if the mayor was receptive to that line of argument, Ball said, “absolutely.”

“Look,” he added, “you don’t want to see Catholic adoption agencies shut down, right? Who would want to see that happen?So, if that is happening in other states, [we should] prevent that from happening here. You don’t want to see a church being sued, or another religious institution being sued because they failed to rent out their basement, okay. So there are basic protections that need to be in place in a comprehensive bill.”