Mark Grisanti

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Mark Grisanti
Member of the New York Senate
from the 60th district
In office
January 1, 2011 – December 31, 2014
Preceded by Antoine Thompson
Succeeded by Marc Panepinto
Personal details
Born Mark John Grisanti
(1964-10-21) October 21, 1964 (age 52)
Buffalo, New York, United States
Political party Democratic (before 2011)
Republican (2011-present)[1][2]
Spouse(s) Maria Grisanti
Children One daughter, one step son, one step daughter
Residence Buffalo, New York, United States
Alma mater Thomas M. Cooley Law School
Profession Lawyer, politician
Religion Roman Catholic

Mark John Grisanti (born October 21, 1964) is an American lawyer and politician. He was appointed to the New York State Court of Claims in May 2015 and is currently serving as an Acting New York State Supreme Court justice.[3]

On January 3, 2011, he assumed office as the Republican[1][2] New York State Senator representing New York's 60th Senate District – which encompasses the areas of Buffalo, Tonawanda, Niagara Falls and Grand Island, New York – having won the seat during the state's 2010 elections held on November 2, 2010. He was reelected in 2012, but lost renomination in a Republican primary in September 2014.[4] While Grisanti stayed in the 2014 general election race on a third-party line, he finished in third place in a hotly-contested election; the winner, Democrat Marc Panepinto, received only 3,681 votes more than Grisanti did.[5]

Early life and education[edit]

Grisanti was born and raised in Buffalo, the youngest of six brothers and sisters.

He graduated from Sweet Home High School, located in Amherst, New York, and attended Canisius College, located in Buffalo, where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in English. After finishing his undergraduate degree he received his Juris Doctor from the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, located in Lansing, Michigan. Throughout college he was a member of the Student Bar Association, received numerous certificates and book awards, and was a member of the Entertainment Committee for the Bar Association and the Italian Law Society.



After graduating law school, Grisanti worked at his father’s law firm that his grandfather had founded in 1921. As a third-generation attorney, he has worked at his family’s practice for over eighteen years. Grisanti first became interested in running for State Senate when practicing law on the lower-west side of Buffalo.[6]

State Senate politician[edit]

2008 Democratic primary defeat[edit]

Grisanti was defeated in the 2008 Democratic primary for the 60th Senate District, losing heavily to Antoine Thompson, 72 to 28 percent;[7][8] Thompson went on to win the senate seat in the state's 2008 general election.[9]

2010 general-election victory as Republican[edit]

Grisanti stood for election to the State Senate seat again in the 2010 state senate elections. His 525-vote victory over incumbent Thompson, which was initially contested, was considered an upset.[10][11] Grisanti's victory helped the GOP obtain regain the Senate majority by a slender 32-30 margin.[12][13]

The 60th Senate District is the most Democratic-leaning of the all Republican-held Senate seats, with 104,000 registered Democrats and 22,000 registered Republicans.[10] Although Grisanti was a registered Democrat during the race, he received a waiver to run on the Republican line; after his victory, he agreed to caucus with Senate Republicans and switched his party registration to Republican.[1]

The contest between Grisanti and Thompson was marked by mailers attacking Grisanti for his criminal-defense work[14] and allegations that Thompson had improperly interceded in redirecting a state grant from the City of Niagara Falls to a private firm owned by a real-estate developer.[11]

The fallout from the grant allegations hurt Thompson and he received only 36 percent of the vote in Niagara Falls, bolstering Grisanti's 525-vote district-wide victory.[11]

State Senator[edit]

Grisanti has received significant support and visibility from Senate Republicans, who have been engaged in a "Protect Grisanti" effort to increase his electability in the lead-up to the state's 2012 elections.[10] Senate Republican leadership have included Grisanti in a number of highly visible initiatives to boost his press coverage and voter favorability.[10]

On February 11, 2012, Grisanti and his wife were reportedly attacked at a fundraising gala held at the Seneca Niagara Casino by a casino shareholder who accused the senator of hating the Seneca nation, which owns the casino.[15]

According to the Niagara Gazette, Grisanti had been in the lobby area at around 11:00 P.M. when he noticed two businessmen fighting. As he went over to calm them down, one of the businessmen accused him of hating the Seneca Indian tribe and punched him in the stomach and hit him in the back of the head. Two women who were with the businessmen knocked his wife to the ground and kicked her. The fight was broken up by security and police.[16] Grisanti suffered bruised ribs during the altercation,[17] while his wife, Maria, suffered a concussion and a possible broken nose.[18]

According to the New York Times, Sen. Grisanti's account of the events of February 11 was challenged by witnesses who claimed that the Senator was the aggressor.[19] Another report indicated that Sen. Grisanti was restrained by five security personnel,[20] and one eyewitness indicated that Sen. Grisanti used a racial slur;[20] however, police did not discover credible evidence of a racial utterance.[21] While Sen. Grisanti expressed an intention to press charges following the incident, no charges were ever filed, and the matter was closed.[22]

Same-sex marriage

During a March 4, 2011, concert in Buffalo, the singer-songwriter Lady Gaga asked her fans to email Grisanti and urge him to vote yes for same-sex marriage in the state senate. Grisanti's office received about 600 emails, both for and against same-sex marriage.[23]

During his 2010 Senate campaign, Grisanti declared himself to be "unalterably opposed" to same-sex marriage[24][25] and sought support from the National Organization for Marriage.[26] In a radio interview on March 8, 2011, Grisanti said:

Civil unions and all the proponents that go along with that, I have no problem with. I have a problem with the term marriage itself. To me, marriage is between a man and a woman. It's been a term, a term of ours for years that has been around for thousands of years. It's like calling a cat, a dog. I don't think that that needs to be changed.[27]

State Senator Thomas Duane called Grisanti's comments "sad and unfortunate".[27] On March 9, 2011, Grisanti said Duane was taking his words out of context, saying he was simply trying to say he views the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman:

So if he doesn't understand that concept of what I was trying to say, then I'm sorry for his misunderstanding of what I'm saying, but that's my opinion of what marriage is.[28]

On May 17, 2011, it was reported that Grisanti had publicly stated that he would vote "no" on same-sex marriage.[29]

On June 17, 2011, it was reported that he had changed his position on same-sex marriage to "undecided".[30]

On June 24, 2011, Grisanti voted in favor of the Marriage Equality Act, which allows gender-neutral marriages for both same- and opposite-sex couples in New York, saying that he had researched the issue and that "a man can be wiser today than yesterday, but there can be no respect for that man if he has failed to do his duty." Grisanti said this even though he was raised Catholic to believe marriage is between a man and woman.[31] "I cannot deny a person, a human being, a taxpayer, a worker, the people of my district and across this state, the State of New York, and those people who make this the great state that it is the same rights that I have with my wife," Grisanti said on the floor of the State Senate, prior to his vote.[32]

Sen. Grisanti's marriage vote cost him the Conservative Party line, which provided his margin of victory in 2010.[33] Both the Conservative Party and the National Organization for Marriage endorsed Democrat Charles Swanick to run against Sen. Grisanti in 2012.[34] New York Times columnist Bill Keller opined that Sen. Grisanti "should be the most endangered Republican in the Senate" in the 2012 elections.[35] However, Sen. Grisanti did receive significant financial support from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other same-sex marriage supporters following his vote.[36][37]

In 2013, Grisanti was a signatory to an amicus curiae brief submitted to the Supreme Court in support of same-sex marriage during the Hollingsworth v. Perry case.[38]

2012 Republican Primary Race[edit]

Grisanti faced a challenge in the Republican Primary for the 60th district from attorney Kevin Stocker of Kenmore, NY. Grisanti won the primary with a 60 percent to 40 percent margin after a campaign in which "much of the bitterest politicking had revolved around Grisanti's controversial 2011 vote to support legalizing same-sex marriage in the state."[39] "We took the high road, because we don't care about the smut, we care about what is important for the residents of Western New York," Grisanti said.[39][40] Grisanti's primary campaign was more successful than the primary campaigns of the other two Senate Republicans who voted for same-sex marriage and ran for re-election;[41] Sen. Stephen Saland barely defeated his primary challenger,[42] while Sen. Roy McDonald was defeated by Kathy Marchione.[43]

2012 General Election[edit]

Sen. Grisanti's re-election bid was endorsed by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani[44] and by the League of Conservation Voters.[45]

Governor Andrew Cuomo offered gushing praise for Grisanti, who he said showed "integrity and courage for being one of only four Republicans to back the governor's effort to pass a law allowing same-sex marriage."[46] Governor Cuomo appeared in an ad with Senator Grisanti titled "Independent," in which the Governor said, "Mark Grisanti, thank you for your leadership."[47]

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has also shown support for Mark Grisanti. Bloomberg was scheduled to host a fundraiser in his private Manhattan home for Grisanti on Monday, October 22, 2012.[48]

Grisanti won reelection in the 2012 State Senate race with 50% of the vote. The Democratic candidate, Michael L. Amodeo, came in second with 36% of the vote, while Conservative Party candidate Charles M. Swanick received 12% of the vote. A notable aspect of the race is the district was recently redrawn, leaving it with a roughly 35,000-person Democratic voter enrollment advantage.[49] The Conservative Party candidate was preferred by many Conservative and Republican voters, meaning Grisanti won with strong Democratic support.[citation needed] Grisanti also possessed a fundraising advantage in large part due to the support of gay rights donors after his vote in favor of same-sex marriage.[50]


Grisanti became a Justice of the New York State Supreme Court for the eighth district, in Erie County.[51] In New York State, Justices of the Supreme Court preside over the principal trial-level courts.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Fairbanks, Phil (November 11, 2010). "Grisanti's Loyalties Lean Toward Senate GOP – Democrat Could Hold Key to Albany Power". The Buffalo News. Retrieved June 25, 2011. Grisanti confirmed late Tuesday his intention to caucus with Republicans if he is declared the winner of the contested race in the 60th District[...]. The registered Democrat also announced his intention to switch his party enrollment to Republican. 
  2. ^ a b New York State Board of Elections (January 27, 2011). "NYS Board of Elections Senate Election Returns November 2, 2010" (PDF – 296 KB; requires Acrobat Reader). p. 13. Retrieved June 25, 2011. Mark J. Grisanti REP 
  3. ^ "Mark Grisanti appointed to New York Court of Claims". WIVB-TV. Retrieved 7 June 2015. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ Staff (n.d.). "Official Biography of Mark J. Grisanti". Retrieved June 25, 2011. 
  7. ^ Wozniak, Mark; Riedel, Howard (September 10, 2008). "Kryzan Wins Congressional Primary, Hoyt Holds Off Kavanaugh". WBFO. Archived from the original on June 25, 2011. Retrieved June 25, 2011. In the 60th district Democratic primary, incumbent Antoine Thompson defeated challenger Mark Grisanti 72 to 28 percent. 
  8. ^ Scheer, Mark (September 7, 2008). "Election: Grisanti, Thompson Vie for Democratic Line Tuesday". Niagara Gazette. Archived from the original on June 25, 2011. Retrieved June 25, 2011. Tuesday’s Democratic primary between Grisanti and Thompson will likely be a winner-take-all affair.[...]There are no candidates on the Republican, Conservative or Independence lines. 
  9. ^ "Election Results 2008". New York Times archives. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  10. ^ a b c d Precious, Tom (June 13, 2011). "Style, Skill Give 'Marginal' Grisanti an Edge – A study in Contrasts, Freshman Senator Earns Respect from Colleagues on Both Sides of Aisle". The Buffalo News. Archived from the original on June 25, 2011. Retrieved June 25, 2011. 
  11. ^ a b c Gee, Denise Jewell (February 20, 2011). "The Mysterious $400,000 Grant – Thompson's Office Had Funds Redirected, and Documents Shed Light on Transaction". The Buffalo News. Archived from the original on June 25, 2011. Retrieved June 25, 2011. 
  12. ^ Quint, Michael (2010-12-04). "New York Republicans Regain State Senate Majority as Judge Certifies Race". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2012-10-21. 
  13. ^ [2] Archived February 8, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  14. ^ Herbeck, Dan (October 23, 2010). "Lawyers Blast Thompson Ad Attacking Grisanti". The Buffalo News. Archived from the original on June 25, 2011. Retrieved June 25, 2011. 
  15. ^ "State senator, wife attacked at western NY casino". Fox News. February 11, 2012. 
  16. ^ "State Senator Says He and Wife Attacked at Western NY Casino after Trying to Break Up Fight". Associated Press. The Washington Post. The Washington Post Company. 11 February 2012. Retrieved 12 February 2012. [dead link][dead link]
  17. ^ "Most Popular E-mail Newsletter". USA Today. February 11, 2012. 
  18. ^ Joseph, Channing (February 11, 2012). "State Senator Mark Grisanti Injured in Confrontation at Casino". The New York Times. 
  19. ^ Eligon, John (February 13, 2012). "Grisanti's Account of Fracas at Seneca Casino Is Met With Objections". The New York Times. 
  20. ^ a b "Pictured: The moment New York state senator was pinned to a wall by FIVE security guards as he 'tried to break up casino fight' during charity event". Daily Mail. London. 
  21. ^ [3]
  22. ^ [4]
  23. ^ Jagow, Alison (March 7, 2011). "GOP Lawmaker on Same-Sex Marriage: 'Lady Gaga Urges Fans To Email Senator'". WGRZ. Retrieved June 25, 2011. 
  24. ^ Reader, Stephen. "Gay Marriage in NYS: Who are the Republican Targets?". WNYC. Retrieved 2012-10-21. 
  25. ^ "The Dangerous Duplicity of Sandy Beach | TEANewYork". 2011-11-15. Retrieved 2012-10-21. 
  26. ^ "NY state senator gets heat for 'taking the Catholic out' of his marriage vote :: Catholic News Agency (CNA)". Catholic News Agency. 2011-07-12. Retrieved 2012-10-21. 
  27. ^ a b Paybarah, Azi (March 9, 2011). "GOP Lawmaker on Same-Sex Marriage: 'Like Calling a Cat, a Dog'". The New York Observer. Retrieved June 25, 2011. 
  28. ^ Spector, Joseph (March 9, 2011). "Same-Sex Marriage Advocates Noncommittal On Vote In New York State Senate". WGRZ. Retrieved June 25, 2011. 
  29. ^ Benjamin, Liz (May 17, 2011). "Grisanti Would Vote 'No' On Gay Marriage". Capital Tonight (via Your News Now). Retrieved June 26, 2011.
  30. ^ Boose, Josh (June 17, 2011). "Grisanti Now 'Undecided' on Gay Marriage Bill". WGRZ. Retrieved June 26, 2011.
  31. ^ Grossman, Cathy Lynn (June 25, 2011). "Key Vote for N.Y. Gay Marriage 'Not Just Catholic'". USA Today. Retrieved June 25, 2011. 
  32. ^ (registration required) Confessore, Nicholas; Barbaro, Michael (June 24, 2011). "Gay Marriage Approved by N.Y. Senate". The New York Times. Retrieved June 24, 2011. 
  33. ^ [5] Archived February 29, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  34. ^ "National Organization For Marriage Backing Swanick". 2012-02-27. Retrieved 2012-10-21. 
  35. ^ Keller, Bill (April 11, 2012). "The Fate of the Republicans Who Supported Gay Marriage". The New York Times. 
  36. ^ "Bloomberg And Marriage Advocates Give Generously To Grisanti". 2011-07-13. Retrieved 2012-10-21. 
  37. ^ "Capitol Confidential » Fundraiser fetes GOP same-sex marriage senators". 2011-09-07. Retrieved 2012-10-21. 
  38. ^
  39. ^ a b "Deadlocked races for two GOPers who backed gay marriage in New York". Politico.Com. 2012-09-13. Retrieved 2012-10-21. 
  40. ^ Buffalo News
  41. ^ Kaplan, Thomas (September 13, 2012). "Primary Results Close for 2 G.O.P. Legislators Who Voted for Same-Sex Marriage". The New York Times. 
  42. ^ Kaplan, Thomas (November 7, 2012). "Republicans Try to Keep Control of New York State Senate". The New York Times. 
  43. ^ Kaplan, Thomas (September 27, 2012). "Roy J. McDonald, Republican Who Voted for Gay Marriage, Won't Pursue Third-Party Bid". The New York Times. 
  44. ^ "Giuliani endorses Grisanti for State Senate". 2012-09-11. Retrieved 2012-10-21. 
  45. ^ "NYLCV". NYLCV. 
  46. ^ "Cuomo holds cards close to vest in Grisanti race". 
  47. ^ Reisman, Nick (September 27, 2012). "Cuomo Has Star Role In Grisanti's Ad". YNN Capital Tonight. Archived from the original on October 19, 2012. 
  48. ^ McCarthy, Robert (17 October 2012). "New York mayor holding fundraiser for Grisanti". The Buffalo News. 
  49. ^ "Enrollment By Senate District, 4/1/2013" (PDF). New York State Board of Elections. 
  50. ^ Vogel, Charity (7 November 2012). "Grisanti wins in state Senate's 60th district". The Buffalo News. 
  51. ^ "8th Judicial District". Unified Court System. The State of New York. Retrieved 21 May 2015. 

External links[edit]

New York State Senate
Preceded by
Antoine Thompson
New York State Senate
60th District

Succeeded by
Marc Panepinto
Preceded by
Antoine Thompson
Chairman of the Committee on Environmental Conservation
Succeeded by