AUBURN — Over coffee and breakfast fare, John Mannion answered questions about his campaign and priorities if he's elected to represent the 50th Senate District.
Mannion, D-Westvale, met with local officials and voters at Hunter Dinerant in Auburn Thursday. Attendees included Auburn Mayor Michael Quill and city councilors Jimmy Giannettino and Debby McCormick.
The event was part of Mannion's Coffee with the Candidate series. He has hosted other meet-and-greets at diners in Onondaga County. This was his first at a Cayuga County restaurant.
Mannion is running to succeed state Sen. John DeFrancisco, who isn't seeking re-election. The Republican candidate in the race is Onondaga County Comptroller Bob Antonacci.
In Auburn, Mannion was asked about a range of issues from education to nursing staff levels. He addressed concerns about health care and his support for the New York Health Act, a bill that would implement a single-payer health insurance system statewide.
The state Assembly has passed the legislation, but it hasn't been considered by the Republican-controlled state Senate. If Mannion is elected, he could be the pivotal vote needed to advance the bill.
"I think we're reaching a point where it's almost unsustainable when it comes to health costs for average people and also health costs for employers and municipalities," he said, while adding that the state needs to "be careful with how we implement it."
He also commented on a health-related issue impacting the region. He knows people who have family members addicted to heroin.
Addicts need to be treated by qualified professionals in an "appropriate setting," he said. But he acknowledged that facilities, especially those in central New York, are overwhelmed due to the epidemic.
Mannion will conclude the first wave of Coffee with the Candidate events Friday at The All Night Egg Plant in East Syracuse. His campaign is planning to hold similar meet-and-greets at other venues in the coming weeks.
The outreach effort will be important as Election Day nears. The 50th Senate District race is a target for both parties. Republicans want to retain the seat DeFrancisco has held for more than a quarter century, while Democrats view it as a pickup opportunity in a year they're hoping for a "blue wave" at the polls.
"It's good to meet with people because you don't just get the 30-second question and response because you have time to sit with people, you have a genuine setting, people feel comfortable and they are allowed to add details and anecdotes to why some of the issues are so important to them," Mannion said. "A setting like this gives me to really hear people's concerns and why they have those concerns."