Election 2022: 50th Senate District race candidates clash on crime, look ahead with Micron
The redrawn 50th Senate District is once again shaping up to be a competitive race, much like it was in 2020. This time, Republican Rebecca Shiroff is challenging incumbent Democrat John Mannion, who’s seeking a third term. The district now stretches from Camillus to across northeastern Onondaga County and into the southern third of Oswego County.
Incumbents can have an advantage or a disadvantage by already running for office before. Right now, some may say Senator John Mannion has a disadvantage. For some time, Mannion has been the target of mailers that arrive almost daily. Like all families, he knows firsthand the impact of inflation on food prices but wonders how he or his fellow Democrats are to blame.
“Do I want to raise the cost of sweet peppers? No, I don't want them higher," Mannion said. "And I have really nothing to do with that. That's market-driven.”
Republicans have also said Democrats who control Albany didn’t fully or permanently repeal all gas taxes. Mannion said they suspended the taxes that directly impact motorists through December. But lifting a tax at the wholesale level proved to be too complicated.
“Number one, we could not guarantee that that tax was going to make it into the consumer's pockets," Mannion said. "And number two, and I will say this, I listen to everybody, but we also listened to the gas station owners, the convenience stores, and they had stated that it would be a very challenging tax to quickly suspend and get correct. We wanted to provide relief as quick as possible.”
Republicans also blame Democrats for approving bail reform measures, which they have claimed led to higher crime rates. GOP challenger Rebecca Shiroff said something isn’t right when the crime is up in suburbs like Manlius.
“We're getting almost on a daily basis reminders of lock your cars because of the smash and grabs, make sure your front doors are locked," Shiroff said. "Where, a few years ago where I live, if I left the front door unlocked, I wouldn't wake up in the middle of the night in a panic. Now I don't go to bed without setting my alarm. And that's something that a few years back I didn't really have to do.”
But Mannion said Republicans ignore key details in the debate between higher crime and bail reform. First, he said the initial changes were approved before he took office. Since then, Mannion said he has made some adjustments.
“Since I've been in office, we have made significant changes to that law, only strengthening the law to give judges greater discretion, make more crimes bail eligible," Mannion said. "We increased the penalties on gun trafficking laws.”
He said judges have had the discretion to hold many offenders who’ve gone on to commit heinous crimes that Republicans are attributing to bail reform.
The candidates are also focused on Micron’s 20-year, $100 billion commitment to building semiconductor facilities in the Town of Clay. Mannion sponsored the $10 billion Green Chips Act that helped land the deal.
“People will question economic development projects in New York State, but this has guardrails," Mannion said. "It happens at the back end. If they meet their job numbers and they use 100% clean energy, of which a lot of it flows right through the Town of Clay, then they do get that support.”
Shiroff also played a role in securing Micron by working as a program analyst with Onondaga County. She would have supported the state incentives without question, but said it speaks volumes about the state’s business climate.
“It’s a very business-unfriendly state," Shiroff said. "We're losing them by the droves to North Carolina, Florida. So, I'm incredibly excited because I worked very hard on that project as part of a team in economic development for over a year.”
Business climate and rising crime aside, Shiroff said there’s an issue that hits closer to home: Access to mental health services.
“When you have a family member who is suicidal, for example, you don't have three months to wait or six months to wait for an appointment,"Shiroff said. "You barely have 24 hours. I'm the mom of a suicide survivor who was extremely brave when she came out with her story and really opened the door for a lot of other kids to share their story.”
Shiroff said she would push for more incentives to encourage people to enter the field, starting with education to address the increasing rates of suicide among teens, veterans, police officers and others.