John Mannion learned a lot from his first experience as a political candidate in 2018. With the next election more than a year away — or possibly sooner — he's seriously considering another run for the 50th Senate District seat.
Mannion, a Democrat, told The Citizen that he's already having conversations with his family and supporters about running for state Senate in 2020. He said while he loves his job — he's an Advanced Placement biology teacher at West Genesee High School in Camillus — he remains interested in state government.
"If I do make a decision to run we're going to make sure everything is in place," he said.
In 2018, Mannion lost by two percentage points to Republican candidate Bob Antonacci. Antonacci's margin of victory was 2,332 votes.
It was an expensive campaign, with nearly $3 million spent by both sides. Antonacci, who is in his first year as a state senator, was expected to be a top target for Democrats in 2020.
But a recent development could result in the 50th district being an open seat for the second consecutive election cycle. Antonacci has been nominated by the Republican, Conservative and Independence parties to run for state Supreme Court judge in the 5th Judicial District. The election is in November.
If Antonacci is successful — he's one of five candidates vying for three seats — he will resign from the state Senate. Gov. Andrew Cuomo could call a special election early next year to fill the 50th district seat.
With Antonacci's possible departure from the state Senate, Mannion is concerned that 50th district voters won't be represented during the 2020 legislative session and the next state budget process.
"Someone needs to be in that seat and they need to be in that seat quickly," Mannion said. "Even though I ran against him and even though I did not vote for him, he was my state senator and he was there during that budget cycle. We need somebody during the next one."
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Mannion said he doesn't have a specific timeline for announcing whether he'll run again, although he acknowledged that the political calendar has changed and he will have to make a decision soon. When he ran in 2018, the primary election for state legislative candidates was in September and he didn't announce his candidacy until April.
In 2020, the primary election for state legislative races will be Tuesday, June 23. The earlier date means candidates for state offices will begin circulating petitions in late February.
A lot of the same issues he highlighted during the 2018 campaign would remain priorities for Mannion if he runs again next year. He supports a "sound" teacher evaluation system and ensuring school districts have adequate funding. He believes ethics reform is needed. While there have been some improvements, he said, "there's more to make."
A main reason he would run again is the political climate. In a year since his first campaign for state Senate, he said the political climate "has only intensified in some negative ways."
"I feel more strongly now than ever before that we need people in government from all walks of life," he said. "I have a wealth of experience now that I didn't have a little over a year ago. I want to apply that, but still keep the principles that I have in place to hopefully make some positive changes, not just for our area or for New York state. But the political climate has to change because it's detrimental to the well-being of this country and our area."
Democrats haven't won this central New York state Senate seat in at least 50 years. Before Antonacci's win in 2018, retired Republican state Sen. John DeFrancisco held the seat for 25 years. His predecessor, former GOP state Sen. Tarky Lombardi, was in office for a quarter-century.
Mannion came close a year ago, but was one of the few Democrats to lose in competitive state Senate races.
Despite the electoral history, Mannion thinks the race is winnable. By a small margin, Democrats outnumber Republicans in the 50th district.
"Almost immediately after the election (in 2018), I heard a lot of great things from people who said 'Hey, we're with you and we appreciate the hard work that you put into this and the things that you stand for. And if you do it again, we're going to be right there and we're going to be there early,'" he said. "If I'm running, I'm going to make sure that all of those people are in place and that we're ready to go."