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John Mannion one of two Democrats in Tuesday's primary for CNY congressional seat

State Sen. John Mannion (D-Geddes) is planning to run for New York's 22nd Congressional District.
Ciara Feltham
Mannion for NY
State Sen. John Mannion (D-Geddes)

On June 25, central New York Democrats decide who faces an incumbent Republican in one of the nation’s most closely watched congressional races. A primary will determine if State Sen. John Mannion or DeWitt Town Councilor Sara Klee Hood faces Republican incumbent Rep. Brandon Williams in the November election.

Mannion’s story begins in a classroom. He spent three decades as a science teacher in the West Genesee School District — part of that time as president of the teachers union. It was that experience that propelled him into electoral politics.

"As I was a teacher and a union president when decisions were being made by elected officials that didn't understand the negative impact that that legislation might have, it really impacted me," Mannion said.

So he ran for State Senate in 2018 and lost. Then won an election for the same seat two years later, a seat he is giving up to run for Congress. Mannion says his experiences in the schools and union halls guide the way he has represented a Republican-leaning district. And that sometimes means bucking the Democratic Party and being criticized for it.

"So when we're talking about a piece of farming legislation, I don't just go to leaders of the farming lobby," Mannion said. "I go to Brian Reeves. I go to the Emmis. I go to the Sorbellos. And they say 'This is really going to put us in an awful spot. This is a tool that we need an environmentally sound process, that we do to make sure that our crop yields are high, that our costs are low.' So I'm being attacked on one bill that I voted on. I voted with the farmers. Don’t ask me, ask them."

Mannion takes credit for ushering a number of initiatives through Albany, including the Green Chips legislation that was key to Micron’s decision to bring microchip factories to central New York, the creation of a police department at Syracuse’s Hancock International Airport and laws to protect a woman’s right to make personal health care decisions. Abortion though, has become an issue in the race. Both Mannion and Klee Hood support abortion rights, but a Klee Hood campaign ad, suggests Mannion’s support is soft.

Mannion calls that a misrepresentation of his stand, noting he supports New York’s abortion laws, as well as federal legislation that would create rights for patients and providers to protect abortion access.

"There is a Protect Women's Health Act that I absolutely would support to make sure that these rights are there," Mannion said. "And what we've seen in the elections across the state, well across the states, when we've had a referendum vote, even in some of our more conservative states, like Kansas or Ohio, that overwhelmingly the voters support a woman's right to choose."

On other issues, he's for U.S. support for Israel as well as a two-state solution in Palestine. He supports continued funding to Ukraine in its war with Russia and complex immigration reform.

"Let's fund our border security," Mannion said. "Let's fund the technology that comes with it. Let's fund our courts so that the processing can happen quickly. And let's be true to the values of this country, which we do all those things in a humane way."

On the economy, Mannion takes credit for accelerating middle-class tax cuts in New York State. But he said dealing with inflation is a tough task.

“You cannot just flip a switch and say we're going to decrease inflation," Mannion said. "There's a lot there. There's a lot of variables involved but the government can do some things."

The other issue that’s come up in the campaign regards donations. Mannion is accused of taking donations from energy-related interests that impacted his vote.

"That is just, I guess I would say, political rhetoric to try to get attention, but the people here trust me and know me and I have voted with them over and over and over again," Mannion said. "Whether it's against pharmaceutical companies, whether it's against utilities, it's about trying to keep living in central New York affordable."

Primary candidates often have the same views on the issues, so races often come down to a governing style. Mannion believes he has the temperament and experience to win in November.

"The last thing I want to do is leave a legacy where people say, 'You know what, he made that political climate even worse at a time where we're probably at the worst point in our nation's history when it comes to that,'" Mannion said. "So I carry myself with positivity. I work with my fellow Republican senators and I plan to work with my fellow Republican members of Congress when I get to DC."

Early voting continues until June 23. Primary Day is June 25.

See our story on Sarah Klee Hood here.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.