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Mannion, Shiroff battle for CNY State Senate seat

Mannion/Shiroff Campaigns
Democratic incumbent John Mannion (left) is being challenged by Republican Rebecca Shiroff (right) for State Senate District 50.

Residents in the cities of Oswego and Fulton will soon have a new state Senator as a result of redistricting. Incumbent Democrat John Mannion and Republican Rebecca Shiroff are the two nominees for state Senate's 50th district.

Shiroff said she’s running because she believes Albany is lacking checks and balances. Democrats currently have a supermajority in the State Senate holding 43 of the 63 seats.

“I don't think that having a one-party system ever works,” Shiroff said. “It never has worked, and I don't think it ever will work. That goes both ways. I wouldn't want an all Republican Senate and I wouldn’t want an all Democrat. We need to have checks and balances and that's sorely missing right now. I think that we're seeing the consequences of that with everything that's going on.”

Shiroff also cites crime in her platform – calling bail reform one of the “most disastrous pieces of legislation ever passed in this state.”

“The amount of egregious crimes that people are getting away with because of bail reform,” said Shiroff, “I mean it's unbelievable. It's a constant revolving door of these criminals that are committing these crimes.”

Ames Grewart, senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice, a non partisan policy institute, said New York’s bail reform legislation has changed since it was first passed in 2020.

“People who have been arrested repeatedly become bail eligible on the second alleged offense, for example,” Grewart said.

He said it's too soon to attribute increases in crime or rearrests to bail reform as 2020 was a tumultuous year. But Grewart did stress considering some of the success stories related to bail reform like a person arrested for a crime they didn’t commit not having to spend a night or two in jail. He said there’s collateral consequences of incarceration.

“They are severe ranging from job loss to housing loss to endangerment of physical and mental health,” Grewart said. “Jail isn't something we should be using lightly. I think we should be sure to bear that in mind when evaluating what's happened with this legislation.”

Shiroff did note the discrimination cash bail can have on the poor in her stance about bail reform.

“I understand the premise," Shiroff said. "If you committed a nonviolent crime, you shouldn't sit in jail just because you are poor and somebody else gets out because they have money. I get that. The problem is, it has been abused, and now it's used as a blanket for everything and that's not okay.”

Shiroff also has a focus on mental health calling for more resources and state-funded school resource officers in every school building.

“I'm the mom of a suicide survivor and I can tell you there is nothing more frustrating than knowing that your child needs help and not being able to find that help,” Shiroff said. “It is an incredibly helpless feeling. So, we have got to do more to invest into that area.”

Mannion said he's passionate about the central New York economy pointing to the Green CHIPS Bill as one example. He said he’s also focused on education – saying it's an equalizer.

“It is what can contribute to pulling people out of poverty like no other," Mannion said. "We have that issue here in our area. We also dramatically expanded universal pre-K in upstate New York so that it it does a number of different things but it's the No. 1 thing is to help children be prepared as they enter into public school. And No. 2 it is helpful to families who may need both of their parents to work."

Mannion said he believes Democrats will remain in the majority. He said being a part of that majority can help him raise voices from central New Yorkers – citing his years of being a teacher allowing him to better work with members of the opposing party.

“'I’m thoughtful when I advance legislation or I vote on legislation and I'm willing to vote against my own party,” Mannion said. “I believe that our area is not to one extreme or the other and we really have more in common with each other than we do have that's different from one another.”

Regardless of who wins, both candidates will represent new constituents. In addition to parts of Onondaga county, the 50th district now includes Oswego and Fulton as a result of redistricting enacted earlier this year.

Ava Pukatch joined the WRVO news team in September 2022. She previously reported for WCHL in Chapel Hill, NC and earned a degree in Journalism and Media from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC, Ava was a Stembler Scholar and a reporter and producer for the award-winning UNC Hussman broadcast Carolina Connection. In her free time, Ava enjoys theatre, coffee and cheering on Tar Heel sports. Find her on Twitter @apukatch.