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Grisanti nominated for state judgeship

Former State Sen. Mark J. Grisanti has been nominated by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo for a state Court of Claims judgeship.

The Buffalo Republican’s name is on a list of 14 nominees who will be considered by the State Senate Standing Committee on the Judiciary when it meets Tuesday in Albany.

Grisanti, 50, who has a third-generation law firm in Buffalo, could not be reached to comment Thursday on his nomination for a nine-year term on the Court of Claims. The post carries an annual salary of $174,000.

The court handles civil litigation seeking damages against the state and other state-related entities such as the Thruway Authority.

In addition to Grisanti, the list of nominees for Court of Claims includes J. David Sampson, who worked for Cuomo in the Buffalo office of the state attorney general when Cuomo held that position. Sampson was deputy attorney general for the Division of Regional Affairs.

As governor, Cuomo appointed Sampson in January 2011 as executive deputy commissioner of the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

Grisanti was unsuccessful in his bid for a third term in the State Senate last November when he ran on the Independence Party line and lost to Democrat Marc C. Panepinto in a four-way race for the 60th District seat.

After the election, there had been speculation in Albany that Grisanti might join the Cuomo administration, since the governor was the only statewide Democrat not to endorse Panepinto over Grisanti.

During the campaign, Cuomo expressed admiration for Grisanti, especially since he was one of only four Republican senators to side with the governor’s successful effort in 2011 to legalize same-sex marriage in New York.

In his recent book, “All Things Possible,” Cuomo revealed the tense negotiations he had with Grisanti before the Senate vote on the same-sex marriage legislation.

The book noted that Grisanti came to the governor about a week before the vote to say he would give him the necessary 33rd vote.

“Thank you. You are making this possible,” Cuomo said he told Grisanti.

But the following Monday, Grisanti returned to the Capitol from a weekend at home and told Cuomo he was voting no. The senator said the measure proved to be highly unpopular in his district.

“Mark, you looked me in the eye and shook my hand. Where I’m from, that means something. We’re not trading marbles here. Other people are relying on your word,” Cuomo said he told Grisanti.

The following Friday, Cuomo said, he looked out the window of the Capitol and saw Grisanti pacing and chain-smoking in the rain.

The governor summoned Grisanti to his office and told the senator he would lose his “integrity” if he went back on what he told Cuomo he would do during their private conversations about the legislation.

Cuomo said he did not know how Grisanti was going to vote when the bill came to the floor later that night.

“My stomach clenched,” Cuomo said of the moment when it was Grisanti’s turn to vote. Grisanti voted yes.

“God is good. Grisanti did the right thing. There are men of conscience and courage,” Cuomo said.

email: jstaas@buffnews.com