Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos released the following statement shortly before midnight yesterday:

“Tonight, it appears that four Senate Republican incumbents who faced spirited primary challenges have won victories. I congratulate Senators Mark Grisanti, George Maziarz, Steve Saland and Jim Seward for the strong campaigns they ran.”

“In addition, New York City Councilman Eric Ulrich soundly defeated his primary opponent, and is now well-positioned to win the 15th Senate district seat in November.”

“It’s clear that New Yorkers remain focused on the economic challenges they face everyday, such as the need to control spending, provide tax relief to middle-class families and help the private sector create new jobs. Senate Republicans will continue to lead on those issues.”

“Now that we have held our primary, Republicans can stand united so we grow our majority and continue the progress we’ve made in turning New York around.”

When I went to bed last night, Saland and his primary challenger, Neil Di Carlo, were separated by a mere 42 votes, with Saland receiving 4,969, and Di Carlo getting 4,927. That was with 100 percent of the districts reporting and 553 absentee ballots in Dutchess County left to count.

The race was one of the surprises of the evening. Heading into the primaries, Saland was believed to be the safest of the three GOP senators who had voted “yes” on same-sex marriage and were being challenged by more conservative members of their own party as a result.

Di Carlo, an ultra-conservative who challenged Rep. Nan Hayworth for the GOP line in 2010 and lost (and then refused to endorse her), was far less known than Saland and has a lot less campaign cash to spend. He was the first Republican to challenge Saland in the lawmaker’s entire’ 32-year career in Albany (ten years in the Assembly, 22 in the Senate).

In the 11-day pre-primary filing, Di Carlo had $11,377 on hand to Saland’s $388,118.

In the 32-day pre-primary filing, Di Carlo had about $20,000 and Saland’s committee had more than $600,000 in the bank, thanks largely to gay marriage supporters who gave handsomely to thank him for his vote.

Di Carlo said last night that he’s confident of victory after the paper ballots are counted because primary voters trend conservative.

But Scott Reif, spokesman for Skelos, told me the majority leader feels good about Saland’s chances of squeaking out a win, saying he had a “strong” absentee ballot program.

Glaringly absent from Skelos’ statement was any mention of the night’s other cliffhanger race between Sen. Roy McDonald and Saratoga County Clerk Kathy Marchione, even though the GOP had supported McDonald, as it did (to varying degrees) all incumbents facing primary challengers.

Both candidates said the contest was too close to call, and would be decided by paper. There are 1,137 absentee ballots out in the 43rd district, according to CapCon, which also has a breakdown of where all of them are located.

With 216 of 218 election districts reporting, Marchione was ahead with 6,792 votes (50.51 percent) to McDonald’s 6,656 (49.49).

Oddly, Sen. Mark Grisanti, who was thought to be the most vulnerable member of the “yes” trio, cruised to an easy victory.

In November, he’ll face Hamburg attorney Michael L. Amodeo on the Democratic line, and former Erie County Legislator Chuck Swanick, who lost the Democratic primary but is still on the Conservative line.

The two tight races and likely loss of one or more of the “yes” voters is bad news for the same-sex marriage advocates – or good news for the opponents, depending on how you see it.

These races were being closely watched last night by advocates both in New York and outside it. The hope on the pro-marriage side was that the world would be shown that Republicans can indeed support the right for same-sex couples to legally wed and not pay a political price.

That has been demonstrated several times in Assembly races, but with the Senate so closely divided, these contests mean a lot more. Plus, the bill is actually law now, and New York was the largest and most prominent state to legalize gay marriage, and so is seen as a bellwether.

Four states – Maine (for the second time in three years), Maryland, Minnesota and Washington State – have gay marriage referenda on the ballot this four.

The New York vote will no doubt will employed in those states as a campaign tool, with opponents hoping momentum of their advocates will be checked by any setbacks experienced here.